How Teachers should Understand Children – Part II

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.

5. Thumb-Sucking

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:

Genetic disorders
Environmental maladjustment
Childhood abuse,
Trauma or shock experienced in the past.
Social isolation, loneliness
Stressful situations
Financial problems
Medical conditions,
Alcoholic family
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
child’s performance.

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.


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By Sr Dr Judy Lewis
Sr Dr Judy Lewis UFS is a clinical psychologist and counsellor. She can be contacted on 9535309187.
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Comment on this article

  • Elvita, Konaje

    Sat, May 15 2021

    well written article sister

  • Ravi, Mangalore

    Fri, May 14 2021

    Very good. But practical things are different. When society became mordernized these concepts theories come forward. We also passed the childhood days but those days no child psychology nor theories. Problem is children are influenced by media and no fear about god or elders.

  • Sr Winnie, Belthangady

    Thu, May 13 2021

    Very good very helpful in teaching field

  • Rems, Mangaluru

    Thu, May 13 2021

    In India, concept of teaching is still in dark ages. Teachers still use 'fear' as a means to drive home the truth. Maths and science are the most fearsome subjects, not because they are very difficult, but because teachers dont know how to make the children understand. Indian schools still use the age-old draconian method of teaching where only the fittest will survive. Drastic change of mindset is required to bring about a new approach to learning.

  • Anitha, Bangalore

    Thu, May 13 2021

    Sr. Judy thanks for your contribution in the counselling services to the society. We really appreciate your time and help that you give to people who are need it.

  • Latha, Mangalore/Bangalore

    Wed, May 12 2021

    Very thought-provoking article.

  • joyce, Mumbai

    Tue, May 11 2021

    very good one!

  • Jyothi, Bangalore /Mangalore

    Tue, May 11 2021

    Very informative and useful awernes given to everyone. Congratulations to you dear Dr. Judy.

  • Anupa, Bangalore

    Tue, May 11 2021

    Very good article 👍 congratulations sister. Wonderful awareness article it is.🙋👍

  • Asha Monteiro, Ukkinadka, Kasaragod

    Tue, May 11 2021

    This article helps not only teachers but everyone to create a good perspective towards children which will help in building a emotionally healthy citizens of the nation. Thank you Sr. Judy for your contribution to the society by presenting these insights.

  • Fr Richard Mascarenhas SJ, Puttur/Bidar

    Tue, May 11 2021

    We, teachers sometimes tend to think that we know everything. There is plenty to know or learn in life as teachers. A teacher has to learn everyday not only the subject that he or she has to teach but also a lesson from his or her students. She or he has to love the students more than his or her own children. It is being sensitive to their need and psychological as well as physical growth. This is what the article invites the teacher to be... Thank you Sr Judy and congratulations

  • Jason, Udupi/Thottam

    Mon, May 10 2021

    Dear sister Dr. Judy we are thankful to you for your wonderful awareness, support, encouragement, and help for the social service apostolate. We as teachers need to understand the problems among the children, very especially in the primary school.. Teachers identify the issues and then refer to school counsellor.

  • Fr Vincent D Souza, Capuchin, Mogarnad

    Mon, May 10 2021

    Dear Sr Judy, nice to see that second part of the article on Teachers understanding children. I really appreciate you for enlightening us the different problems faced by the children. Keep it up.

  • Roney, Mumbai

    Mon, May 10 2021

    The second part of the article very informative. Sr.Judy we appreciate your effort to help the society in the field of Counselling praiseworthy. Congratulations dear sr. Judy.

  • Leedia Gama, St Xavier's HP's TumarikoppaDear

    Mon, May 10 2021

    Dear Sr Judy thank you very much for your second part of the article. As I was reading this article I came to know how teacher should understand children in the class. In this article you explain how we can recognise the who needs counseling. Being a teacher I came across many children who face these kind of problems but many time I have not payed attaintion to these children. After reading this article I have realised my mistake. After this I can be more alert in the class , and know the problem of the children. Once again thank you very much for this meaningful and thoughtful article. May God bless you always...

  • Leedia Gama, St Xavier's HP's TumarikoppaDear

    Mon, May 10 2021

    Dear Sr Judy thank you very much for your second part of the article. As I was reading this article I came to know how teacher should understand children in the class. In this article you explain how we can recognise the who needs counseling. Being a teacher I came across many children who face these kind of problems but many time I have not payed attaintion to these children. After reading this article I have realised my mistake. After this I can be more alert in the class , and know the problem of the children. Once again thank you very much for this meaningful and thoughtful article. May God bless you always...

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