The Young Human Blues, Part 1

The Young Human Blues, Part 1
On Monday mornings, does your child awaken eagerly anticipating school?
It’s a simple question. Yet, the answer has profound consequences. Your child’s attitude towards school affects your entire family–one “bad” school year can poison family peace for years to come. Ask any parent who has trouble getting their child out of bed—it is a repetitive, hellish battle.
This “I-Want-to-Stay-in-Bed-Itis” can turn into a dis-ease that needs monitoring like any high fever. If it continues without attention, it can psychologically scar your child well beyond adolescence. The most common causes can be sorted roughly into three categories: teacher/student, peer, and child/parent relationships. Let’s start with the first. Too often, there is an unspoken but real mental battle between the teacher and student. The child, even an adolescent, may not be able to verbalize it. But it can go something like this:
“My teacher really doesn’t get me. She is judging me by a skill I don’t have and a personality she doesn’t seem to appreciate. I try to do the work as best I can—I really try to pay attention—even when she is boring. But sometimes my mind slips somewhere else, and she calls on me and… I don’t feel worthwhile. I feel like a loser. How foolish I must seem to my class. I’m sorry, I don’t always get what she is trying to teach—even though it’s probably simple for others. It is hard to feel like the worthwhile person—especially because she picks on me every day. I know my teacher is smart. If she doesn’t think I am good enough—maybe I am a really bad and stupid person. And, if I am bad and stupid, that makes my bad mood doubly bad. I don’t want to keep going to school just to fail all the time. And now I’m starting to have problems on the playground too. I’m close to getting into some fights. I seem to be losing my temper more quickly these days. I thought life as a kid was supposed to be at least part fun.
Imagine if you as an adult had to face that at the workplace daily? But as an adult, you’ve learned some strategies to deal with difficult, even threatening situations. But kids are only learning this skill. A youngster’s internal dialogue may be below consciousness, and so the may act out. Or even worse, moves quietly into a depression.
This kind of scenario, or a version of it, happens more often than one would expect. I have worked with hundreds of kids who have similar stories.
One of my favorite questions to adults is, “How many teachers have had a strong and positive influence on you? Most people answer two, or if one is “lucky” perhaps one or two more. If you have been through college, you have had approximately 150 teachers since kindergarten. So, a kids chance of having a truly memorable teacher is about two percent. How sad.
But of those two percent of brilliant teachers, is there a common denominator? The answers have a similar ring. You knew that that teacher was “pulling” for you and believed deeply in you. They brought out the best in you.
Most every child knows if their teacher(s) really cares for them or not. Consciously or unconsciously, they just know. Sadly, they may not be able to express themselves clearly in words. That’s why it’s so helpful, even crucial, for the teacher to uncover what the child is truly saying by deciphering their body language,actions, expressions and words.
In twenty-five years of teaching, I have never met a teacher who deliberately set out to make a student feel badly.
Why, then, does it happen so often?