THE DIFFICULT STUDENT
Teachers sometimes, mistakenly argue how they need to be tough, in order to ensure discipline from the difficult student. And some may even go to the extent of demonstrating it inn punishments, albeit, with the best of intentions.
A group of students when asked for the three qualities most important for a successful teacher, never used the word ‘tough’, and only one of them used ‘strict’, but mostly mentioned words like “patience”, “good will”, “personality”, “loving”, “kind”, “just: etc. These latter set of words seem to imply the need for a kind of interior toughness, which puts greater demands on the teacher herself. But are there ways one can effectively deal with a difficult student?
Mrs. Marie Gaspar of Calcutta says: “I talk to them casually after school hours and try to find out what’s worrying them. Most often it’s their personal problems, and problems at home which distract them and make them difficult.”
Incidentally, several of her students when asked which teacher they admired as a good educator, mentioned her name. They described her as “gem”: ideal mother and ideal teacher”, “strict but gentle as a dove”, etc. One adolescent girl said, “I could kiss the ground she walks on”.
Do students have a tendency to identify the roles of mother/father with that of teacher? In our surveys we have noted that many students, expect in their teachers’ qualities that are more easily found in one’s parents. This indicates, perhaps, that being fatherly/motherly helps one to be accepted as a good teacher too.
A father or mother nearly always distinguishes between the child and his/her behaviour. They make the child feel that they accept him/her even while rejecting some of his/her behaviours. This acceptance makes it altogether easier for the child to deal with the unacceptable behaviours.
“FORGET IT UTTARA”
What Uttara Bhattacharya needed after breaking a bottle of water was a few respectful words of encouragement. In class V, her class teacher once told her to fetch a bottle of water. After filling the glass bottle to the brim, while returning with it suddenly, it slipped from her hand and broke into several pieces. “I saw clouds in my eyes”, she likes to recall.: When I narrated this terrible mishap with tear-filled eyes to the teacher, she laughed and said, ‘Forget it Uttara, you can surely give me a bottle on my birthday’. I became calm and felt valued once again”.
Souramuni teaches in an English Medium School in a satellite town of Orissa. Every morning as he leaves his home, he rushes forward with enthusiasm, though he has no children of his own to take to school. “The thousand children in school are all of them mine,” he likes to say.
What is the secret of his joyful countenance all through the day in school? “I try to think only well of my students. I’d like to think of them as successful people, well meaning and achieving things inn life. I can’t find a reason for unhappiness.”
Souramuni was awarded a special appreciation plaque by his organization, years ago. “I didn’t work for the reward”, he said on the occasion. “So when it came, I was astonished. It certainly was useful.”
A QUESTION TO REMEMBER
We are dealing with young minds. So give more importance to the ‘child’ than the subject. After all it’s easy to cover the curriculum by turning all the pages and doing all the exercises. But where are the children in the end?
-Miss. C. Mathew, Calcutta
DISCIPLINE WITH DIGNITY
In order to administer discipline with dignity, educator Madeline Hunter advises to keep the discipline action confidential between you and the student or if you do need to be public about it, to make it positive. Here are some of her suggestions:
1. Vicinity. If you are covering a topic and a student is misbehaving, most of the time you can deal with it by simply walking over and standing next to the student while you continue to teach.
2. Inclusion. Use the student’s name in a positive way. Say to the student, “Ajit, I need your help. While everyone is thinking of the names of the countries which border China, be may assistant, please, and keep track of the ideas”.
3. Secret Signal. Just walk by the student and touch the paper he’s writing on or gently touch his shoulder.
4. Private Choice. Give all the students an assignment such as, “close your eyes and think of as many chapter titles from our textbook”. Then walk over to the student who is misbehaving and talk to him. Say, “It seems like you’re either bored or frustrated. Can you handle this yourself or would you like some help from me?”
5. Adjacent Student. Avoid embarrassing the student at any cost. If a student is fidgeting or mildly disruptive, simply call on the person NEXT to him/her. This usually brings their attention back to the room.
HAPPINESS IN SCHOOL
Students derive happiness from a variety of sources. More often than not, it is the experience of some human quality that they remember as happy moments. “The people I come to meet from various backgrounds, and the thought that they are there everyday makes my day happy”, says Yvette Wanda Abel of Calcutta: Very similarly, Elizabeth Xess says she enjoys doing things and sharing the time together with her classmates.
Shrabana Chakrabarti claims that her happier moments have something to do with the way her teachers present themselves to her. “The kind, motherly care, and friendly attachment from the teachers, is what makes me happy in school”, she says. For still others, the sense of achieving gradually their lifegoals, is a source of immense happiness.
Incidentally, it is the happier moments that contain maximum potential for growth; a growth that is healthy and long-lasting.
Three qualities of the “most liked” principal, according to some Teachers are:
UNDERSTANDING PATIENCE ENCOURAGEMENT
Teachers who have mastered the science and art of classroom management have done it many different ways. Some use sugar, some vinegar. Some follow a system, others say “do whatever works.” What is more important when dealing with these issues is that we maintain an atmosphere of love, consistency and integrity.
Love: Letting students know they are still good people, it’s their behaviour that is unacceptable.
Consistency: Helps students know the framework and boundaries for behavior. They won’t need to keep testing them to find out how much the teacher will bend each day.
Integrity: They will need to know that the teacher will keep his/her values. This sets the example for them to do the same and can reduce discipline problems long-term.
WHOM DO YOU ADMIRE?
We asked some students to tell us about teachers whom they admire, and what they admire them for. Here’s a sample of what they said.
Shrabana Chakrabarti quoted earlier, says, “I admire three people as excellent educators. One is a religious brother, and two are teachers. All three of them are highly talented, extremely well organized, punctual, and strict to some extent, yet very loving; and people with real, earnest dedication to their work. They have inspired me in my school life and though they will not be physically present around me when I step out of this school, their qualities, their ideas and values will always inspire me in my life.”
WHEN YOU TREAT YOUR STUDENTS SPECIAL. THEY DO NOT HAVE TO ACT SPECIAL
“I admire a priest as an excellent educator,” says Amit Bafna, also of Calcutta. “He tries and assists the boys in every possible way. He visits the classroom and the boys can freely express their grievances in front of him. Not only does he listen to the boys’ problems, but he also takes necessary action. He mingles freely with the boys during the lunch break. Whenever he is in the school, he spends the lunch hour among the students. All boys in the school respect him due to his genuine concern for the students.”