May 10, 2021
In part one of the article, we discussed about the quality of good teachers who observe carefully all children and their behavior every day. A discerning teacher encounters with affection a child who is facing difficulties in life and engages it in dialogue in a loving and gentle manner and if needed she directs the child to the counsellor.
In this article let us just have a bird’s - eye view on the problems usually the teachers see among the children, very especially in the primary school.
1. Learning Disability
Quite often the teachers observe among the children of lower classes the ‘learning disability’. These children have problem in reading, writing, or in counting. They do not copy the notes from the board correctly. Even if they copy, they do not complete it. Sometimes they are not able to distinguish between alphabets and numerals; their reading capacity is generally poor, hand writing is illegible and their memory too is weak.
I had a client who could not differentiate between ka & ga, pa & ba in Kannada language. She was not able to write these alphabets correctly. Another client could not write 7, instead he wrote in the reverse order. If there are cases like this, the teacher can refer them to the counselor, who will diagnose the case and refer to some specialist in learning disabilities.
2. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): The overactive children
Another common problem we see among children is ADHD, namely children who are restless and overactive. First and foremost these children are unable to recognize other people’s needs and desires. They interrupt others and trouble them in the class; generally they are very restless, cannot focus attention on any particular activity, get easily distracted and dissipated. They do not finish their assignments or any given task as they lack focus. After initial counselling, they are to be referred to a Psychiatrist.
3. Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety is another very common problem. Of course, there is positive type of anxiety which accompanies us in all our undertakings. But once the event with which we are preoccupied is over, we come back to normal life. But certain people get persistently disturbed by anxiety. Anxiety manifests itself as a life disorder. Every life activity gets negatively affected. As a result various symptoms crop up. Headache, sleeplessness, stomach ache, pervasive sadness which never permits them to relax and be peaceful and happy. These symptoms are visible sometimes even among children in your class. We need to be aware that there are different types of anxieties. I had a client who was suffering from ‘Separation-Anxiety’. This child was worried about being separated from parents or caregivers. These children may do all the assignments given by the teachers, they may like the school, but they do not want to come to school as they find very painful to remain away from their parents.
Another type of anxiety is called, ‘Social anxiety’: The children suffering from this type of anxiety are afraid of their own classmates and peers because they find difficult to relate with them.
4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Some times children load their delicate mind with unwanted and stressful thoughts, which gives rise to this mental problem. They repeat same activity again and again: this may be counting, turning the pages of the book again and again, and washing their hands and the like. They need urgent counselling.
This is prevalent among KG (Kindergarten) children. Generally parents see that their kids stop this habit of ‘thumb-sucking’ before they enter the school. Some children revert to this habit when they face some difficulty or stress. Little encouragement, sweet words or even some rewards can motivate the child to give up the habit. If it persists, then better the teacher directs the child to the counsellor.
6. Children with Autism
This is a psychological problem that hinders a child to communicate or form relationships with other children. We often confuse it with ADHD. An autism child doesn’t keep eye contact, doesn’t respond to parent's smile or other facial expressions. The children with autism do not look at objects. They have abnormal body posturing or facial expressions. They are bound to delay in learning to speak. There will be behavioural disturbances and deficits in language comprehension. If a teacher identifies such behaviour among the children, s/he need to refer them first to the counsellor, who in turn can refer them to the psychiatrist.
7. Other problems
Apart from these there are some other problems which a teacher might observe in the class, like bullying and aggressiveness. There will be children suffering from depression, moodiness, and tendency to dominate over others, shyness, sleepiness, home-sickness and the like. If any of these problems are identified among the children, they should be referred to a counsellor.
8. Remedies and resolution of the Problems
It is the duty of the counsellors to look into the problem and seek a remedy. They need to listen to child’s concerns regarding academic as well as emotional and social deficiencies. On the part of teachers, one thing they should avoid at all times, namely, the habit of labeling the child as ‘dull, bad, gloomy, problematic, slow learner, lazy’ so on and so forth. Certain confidentiality is the basic right of each child under their care, hence they cannot reveal even in their conversation with other teachers speaking about the so called ‘problematic’ children. I mean not the children who fail to observe external discipline, but children who suffer from psychological ailments. Any revelation in public of any such ailment can generate new problems for the child without their awareness. All this presupposes that they love and accept
each and every child.
9. Causes of Mental and Behavioral Disorders
A short elaboration of the causes and behavioral disorders is in place at this place. What are the causes of mental or behavior disorder? Just to make a short list of causes, they could be the following:
Trauma or shock experienced in the past.
Social isolation, loneliness
Marital conflicts of parents
Being aware that these are the general causes of the behavioral disorders, the teachers who encounter children with such disorders should impress upon them with gentle and caring questions which impel to open themselves to them willingly.
So, teachers need to encourage students to talk out their feelings. For this they need to build up an emotional rapport with the students. Instead of labelling the students as good and bad, they can describe their behavior as ‘positive’, ‘acceptable’, ‘disruptive’ or ‘unacceptable’ and the like. Instead of punishing these children, they can reward them with positive incentives, which might help them to grow and improve their behavior.
When it’s necessary to speak to a student about his/her behavior, it should be done in private. Advising or exhorting the child in public might trigger negative reactions, which can have degrading effects on
It is better to avoid discussing about psychological problems of children in the staff room in common. It is just a matter of prudence whether we evaluate and pass remarks on these matters in the presence of other colleagues. It is possible the child may not behave in the same way with every teacher. It is better to be preoccupied with the question of understanding children than completing the syllabus, especially in the lower classes, where children expect more personal care and concern.
I hope these few insights regarding our approach to children are useful to our teachers in our schools. Let us convince each child that we are interested in them and in their welfare. Just addressing them by name and encouraging them when they do well, can go a long way to strengthen their character and attitudes towards life. The teachers need to appreciate their own great profession as they are the effective instruments who can mould the child into a mature adult.