Meet Indrani, English teacher, The Gateway School (India).
Hello Indrani, can you introduce yourself ?
I’ve been a special educator for 30 years. I got my basic training in
India, in Mumbai. When I started working, I realised I didn’t know enough
and I needed further education so I went to the States and I got my
bachelor in special education. I’ve always been a special educator even
though I might have stepped out of this little bubble, and worked with
teachers in the mainstream.
I’d rather do inclusion and collaborate and never thought of
changing because I like the problem-solving part of “special ed”
and dealing with individuals to see the growth.
How do we get the public to consider teachers ?
We often consider teaching as being something easy, it is not easy !
We need to educate the public about what is involved in teaching.
It’s not about opening a textbook and reading it ! It involves planning, it
involves being able to manage a group of people, to engage it. There is no
easy way to answer to your question. People would see me and tell : “You
have so much stress at work !” My dad would never understand why I had to
go back to the US two weeks before school started. So I think what it is
going to take is : first of all, the people in the field should take it
seriously, making this career choice for good reasons, not for public
holiday, not because it seems easy. Then we need to have some public
relation to educate people about our job and it’s reality.
What do you think about teacher and research ?
In the US, last 10–12 years, they’ve been looking at evidence bases
: what are the evidences ? What are the researches on this topic ? And now
when people go to get their masters in the US, they get that. Teachers here
in Gateway do a lot of research, we even have a book club between us to
share some readings. Indira
(The Gateway School’s founder, who created this school thinking about
her child with learning challenges)
came from the US so we are US-oriented but
we look a lot abroad to find best practices and adapt them to our
We have to be in touch with studies and new datas.
I had a superintendent who read constantly, she was reading professional
books, to stay ahead of the game.
What was your best moment in Gateway?
There was that child that came into the school, the first year I had him
here, he would not let me finish my sentences, he was constantly
interrupting, he would read half a sentence and ask “what is the meaning?”.
But I’ve seen a lot of progress. And it was not only my job and that’s
I deeply believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and for
this child it took a lot of collaborative work with the parents,
others professionals to see progress
. He walked a long way, his understanding had increased, he became a lot
more confident — maybe too much ? — , he’s an active reader now. But it
take time and sometimes you may not see the results of what you did.
Can you illustrate teaching with an image?
I think I would say a puzzle because, you know,
we are not producing widget. It’s not an assembly line, nor can we apply a
business model on education. So that
puzzle is a child and, as a teacher, we try to put the pieces together
to develop the whole child.
I may be a language teacher but I’m also looking at others areas, with
literature it is easy because we speak about values and character when we
discuss about a book so I get to introduce some social and emotional
But like a puzzle, teaching it not straight forward, there is a lot of
variables. We don’t have any models, we need to be creative, to think
out of the box.
Some tools to teach langage ?
In the writing classes, I follow the
: it is a method of writing instruction developed by Donald Graves, Donald
Murray and other teachers / researchers to encourage students to become
lifelong writers. It combines mini-lessons taught to the class or to a
small group on some specific skill or writing strategy (using dialog to
show an action, creating imagery through words…), and a long time devoted
to practice and conferencing (see next point). Students are following a
writing process that traditionally operates in 5 steps : prewriting,
drafting, revising, editing, publishing.
The purpose is to move from a focus on written products to writing
During those workshop, I encourage and give place to peer conferencing : a child comes to help another model
his story through discussion and feedbacks. I also teach them how to give proper feedbacks.
Also, but that’s a bit different, when I was in the US, I used to work on
Response To Intervention
that is a very common program now. It is a three tier approach to identify
and support students with learning and behavior needs:
High-Quality Classroom Instruction, Screening, and Group
: students are given high quality instruction and are frequently
screened to identify needs.
these services and interventions are provided in small-group settings
in addition to instruction in the general curriculum.
Intensive Interventions and Comprehensive Evaluation
: students receive individualized, intensive interventions that target
the students’ skill deficits.