This year, the Perkins School for the Blind is celebrating 100 years of sharing our expertise with fellow teachers of children with multiple disabilities around the world. Mary Burns’ January 2020 GPE article on “The 7 deadly sins of donor-funded teacher professional development” had us cheering in agreement.
In schools of all sizes across 92 countries, we’ve seen how avoiding these ‘sins’ results in more learning for children with multiple disabilities. Because our children have the most complex learning needs, and depend on skilled teachers, teacher professional development is always essential, not optional. Here are 3 examples in GPE partner countries, and what I’ve learned:
- Quality really is more important than quantity: Model programs in Vietnam and Indonesia
Bridging gaps in access to education requires meeting children where they are. The job of teachers is to find that meeting place again and again. Only a holistic approach centered on ongoing professional development can support teachers to maintain the same passion and effectiveness to meet every last child. In Vietnam, Perkins and NDC School for the Blind in Ho Chi Minh City have been collaborating since the School’s first acceptance of children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment to gradually develop into a model program.
What does it take to build a model?
- 12 years of technical assistance and need-based trainings on site to develop specific teacher skills.
- Modeling, coaching, and mentoring onsite, and offsite study visits to exemplary programs both in the region, and to Perkins’ campus in Boston, USA.
- Technical support to develop new functional curriculum suited for students with multiple disabilities, and translation of existing global resource materials into Vietnamese.
- Advanced leadership development and mentoring for the school principal and selected teachers- both to foster a culture of continuous improvement within NDC, and to train NDC teachers to mentor other schools and institutions throughout Vietnam.
Today, NDC offers observation and trainings that demonstrate best practices and reach out to support schools across Vietnam, for a national impact.
Let’s not forget: meeting children where they are sometimes means supporting teachers in non-school settings. Around the world, children with complex, multiple disabilities are the first ones to be placed in residential care settings, and the last ones out.
In Indonesia, through intense, systematic professional development for both program management and direct care staff, Perkins supported Yayasan Sayap Ibu Banten to transform from an orphanage functioning as a care center into a quality educational program for the children with multiple disabilities in residence. Expanding outreach services for families and children in their own communities helped establish non-residential alternatives outside of the orphanage. This has decreased new admissions to the residential program, so more children are living at home and learning at school.