May 1, 2021
Without doubt the attitude and concern of every good teacher is to understand every child present in the class; if so, it should motivate them to observe their behaviour. Each child behaves differently and hence the preoccupation of the teacher should be to observe them well. This is particularly true in the case of lower classes, where the external behaviour of children changes often. Hence teachers need to be attentive in order to know the reasons and causes that make the child behave differently. This article is aimed at teachers especially of lower classes. The teachers of higher classes also might derive some insights from the narration below.
Let me begin with a question. What should be the approach of teachers towards children in the classroom? The common sense dictates to us that it should be invariably positive and if it is really negative, then it is better for both the teacher and the children that the former changes the career itself. The primary concern of the teacher should be: “How can I understand these children and how can I discern their behaviour or conduct”. Each child behaves differently, hence we need to observe them, how each child reacts, how it responds to teaching. If there is any change in behaviour, the teacher should discern the change and try to find out the reason for the change. When the child cries, we need to pay intense attention and ask with concern the reason for the cry. This should be our basic and primary approach towards children and it will naturally build up a positive rapport with the class and the teacher will be able to build up a healthy relationship with every child.
Knowing the child and discerning the problem
Having said and emphasised this, I would like to go to the next point. A teacher may observe that a particular child is not acting normally. The child must be having some problem. Every class can have some children with particular problems. I would like to highlight in this article the children with definite problems and deficiencies. Let us concentrate on these children who have some problem in their behaviour. Our goal is to improve the behaviour of these children.
This first point is to understand these children. To understand the problem of the child, the teacher must understand the child first. Only then s/he can discern the problem of the child correctly. What do we mean by discernment? What are the profiles of discernment? Discernment implies: (i) Intense observation. (ii) Building up rapport, that is, positive relationship and trust with the child. (iii) Approach the child with keen interest and concern. (iv) Make gentle inquiry regarding his/her behaviour. (v) Take positive action, which depends on the context: may be informing the parents, or even sending the child to a counsellor etc. Please know that the above five points are very important to understand the child.
Identification of the problems
We are dealing here with psychological problems and not issues connected with general discipline of the school, time table or programmes and other activities. Let me just list the symptoms connected to psychological problems of students that I have handled as a Counsellor. Let me present the problems as particular cases.
Case 1: A third standard boy does not sit in one place. All the time restless. Searching for the pen in the desk and/or turning the pages. He does not complete the notes. Also manifests impulsive behaviour. This is an ADHD case which means “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”.
Case 2: A 7-year old girl child behaving abnormally in the class showing her genitals to classmates. What could be the case? This is the case of a sexually abused child.
Case 3: A second standard girl does all the activities at home; completes all the home work and good in studies. She likes her classmates, teachers, and also the school. But strongly attached to her mother. When mother comes to school to reach her, she does not leave her mother, cries, and demands that her mother should be with her and without the mother becomes totally upset. What could be the case? This is a case of “separation-anxiety”. The Child finds the separation from her mother very painful.
Case 4: A first standard girl who is very smart in all her activities, studies well and very social in nature, suddenly start saying “I want to die; I cannot study, I do not want to go to school”. The child develops physical problems like headache, stomach pain, vomiting sensation and the like. Her academic performance comes down, gives up activities, and repeatedly makes mistakes while writing. Can you guess what the cause of this sort of behaviour is? The most probable cause could be ‘child-abuse’.
Case 5: A second standard boy, one day gets severe headache and repeats again “I want to die”. In this case the problem was from the side of parents. Their expectations were too high and the boy could not cope with their expectations of very high grades.
I can narrate several cases like this; the lesson they teach us is that the teaching profession is very challenging as well as very fulfilling. The school is actually the second home for the child and teachers take the place of parents in the classroom. It could be the case that as a teacher, you encounter students with different problems with differing strengths and weaknesses. It’s the collaborative effort of parents and the teachers to mould the children, and facilitate their growth, especially those children who have difficulties. Whenever a teacher finds a child with a particular problem in the class, the vocabulary generally utilized by the teacher while communicating with other teachers is, “I have a problematic child”. This is a negative way of communication, the positive statement would be, ‘I have a child in the class with some difficulties’. It is not correct to say that the child is ‘problematic’.
The above examples given in the form of cases could give the teachers some insight into the problems certain students are facing in the class. It may not be necessary for the teacher to identify the exact problem and the cause of it. But a keen observation of every student in the class is a good quality of a good teacher, especially in the lower classes. This habit will provide incentives to help and support the children with problems. The question the teachers need to ask is, “Why the child is behaving differently? When it started behaving this way?” The very fact the teacher observes the change in the behaviour of the child is itself very praiseworthy.
The next step will be to have a personal encounter with the child. If the school has a qualified counsellor, the teacher can direct the child to the Counsellor. Sometimes it may be necessary to get the approval of the parents to send the child to the counsellor. This is because there is still a stigma in the society on counselling. People come to make immediate irrational conclusions as soon as someone meets a counsellor or a psychiatrist. This is just a precaution to be taken if context demands. Taking into account the good of the child, consulting the counsellor can be considered as obligatory, as there could be different reasons and causes for the erratic behaviour of the child. Counselling facilitates the growth of the child and helps it to remain in the right track.
It is normal to expect that the teachers lose their patience and scold the child. Sometimes they might demand immediate transformation in the conduct of the child. This can instil fear in the child and it may put on temporary changes in the conduct out of fear, which gradually may generate greater wrong habits in the child. Remember the mind can play horrible tricks and the teacher can destroy the future of the child. Even if the teachers do not have patience at a particular instance, they need to take the opportunity of another context and call the children for a dialogue in a calm mood and show love and concern by being kind and gentle, so that it opens the heart and reveals the hidden secrets of its life. The teacher can always denounce the misbehaviour of children but they cannot play with their lives. They should be careful not to ridicule and insult the child in public. Winning over the heart of every child should be the motive of all that they do with children.
We need to know something more about the “behaviour disorders” in children. We shall delineate on them in the part two of the article.
To be continued...