Rationale: In writing this blog submission I have come to realize it sounds quite negative. I apologize for that. However, every “Symptom” listed here is an actual situation I saw with one or more students during my career. Other teachers expressed very similar issues, too. It hurts the heart of a teacher to see a child not being dealt with in a way that will enable that child to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and scholastically. The heart of a teacher wants to see progress but the situation surrounding the child limits that growth. It is so horribly frustrating.
Yes, there are many, many parents who take their parenting seriously and do a marvelous job of meeting their children’s needs. It’s fun working with those children and their parents. But, the topic I was asked to write about is factors that inhibit the child’s growth. It’s those inhibitors we will look at here. I’m sure that any parent taking the interest and time to read this blog is in the group of parents that nurture their children. Thank you for that; it makes the teacher’s job a joy.
1. Not enough sleep
When children drag themselves into the classroom, plop down listlessly at their desks, and lay their heads down it’s a pretty good indication they’re tired. They display a lack of interest in learning. Tired children are incapable of focusing well so, of course, can’t take in the learning that’s presented – no matter how interesting the teacher makes it. The child’s main focus is on sleep and they don’t have the motivation or energy for anything else! Is this really a problem in schools today? Yes! It’s a frequent problem. Every teacher sees this in their classroom.
Something interesting that I noticed with tired children in the classroom is that they displayed hyperactive tendencies though they weren’t ADHD; these tendencies only
showed up when the child was tired. They were valiantly fighting sleep; they had to move to stay awake. How sad.
Regular bedtime in a bed is an absolute essential for children. There should be a calm-down time before bedtime; family worship would be ideal for this, sending the child to bed with good thoughts in their minds, allowing for more peaceful rest.
School-age children should get 9-12 hours of sleep per night. When the child consistently wakes up with a smile on their face and in a good mood they have probably had enough sleep.
To get the best sleep, all lights should be turned off – even digital clocks, etc. The only nightlight should be in the hall in case the child needs to get up during the night. It won’t take long before the child gets accustomed to sleeping in a dark room. Eliminating scary shows, toys, etc. from the child’s world will prevent many of the scared-of-the-dark issues.
All technology should be shut down and/or taken out of the child’s room before bedtime. Get the TV out of the room!
2. Lack of good nutrition/health
Students sometimes complain of being hungry early in the school day; they want a snack. This is an obvious sign the child didn’t have breakfast, or had an inadequate one. Breakfast needs to be such that it will fuel the brain so it can function optimally.
We put the required gas in our automobiles – and pay dearly for it. But, then we buy junk food for our precious child and think it will enable them to function well at their “job” (schoolwork). Yes, I’m on a soapbox – and I make no apologies for it. I’ve witnessed too many of these over-sugared, mis-nourished children. It’s so sad to realize a child’s potential but see them not reaching it because of an inadequate diet.
Breakfast is an absolute MUST for every child! I’ve heard it said that the best diet is to:
· Eat like a king for breakfast
· Eat like a commoner for lunch
· Eat like a pauper for supper
Unfortunately, in our society supper is often our largest meal. Children eat a large supper and go to bed while the meal is still being digested, causing poor sleep.
Some of the hyperactivity seen in children is very simply too much sugar in the diet for the size of the body. We don’t think of this much but kids’ bodies can’t easily handle as much sugar as an adult. A full can of soda has as many as 9 teaspoons of sugar but a child shouldn’t have that amount in an entire day, much less all at once! A healthy lunch with fresh veggies and fruit is important as a recharge of the system during the day.
Other matters besides sleep and diet must be considered. If a child seems to be trying their best but shows frustration it’s a good idea to get their ears and eyes checked even if it was done before the school year began; things can change. Sometimes the problem can be easily located and remedied via these checkups.
3. Lack of motivation on part of parents
Parents who aren’t motivated to assist their children in getting a good education can be a hindrance to the teacher’s efforts, limiting the child’s ability to learn. Some examples I’ve seen that hurt the child scholastically are parents:
· Doing the work for the child (the child can’t learn that way and comes to believe there’s something wrong with their ability to learn).
· Frequently getting their child to school late, or picking them up early.
· Putting more emphasis on extra-curricular activities than schoolwork.
· Not attending parent/teacher conferences.
· Showing minimal interest in what the child does/experiences at school.
· Displaying impatience with the process of education; they’re only interested in scholarships, awards, and degrees.
Parents can encourage and advance their child’s learning experience by:
· Getting their child to school on time every day unless there’s a genuine illness or family emergency.
· Faithfully attending parent/teacher conferences, working with the teacher for the benefit of the child.
· Allowing the child to do their own work – even if it means poor grades; doing their own work is how the child will actually learn.
· Making school the first priority (after their relationship with God) in their lives.
· Regularly discussing school experiences with their child, truly listening to the child.
4. Permissive parenting
Excusing children for improper behavior is a sure way to raise an insensitive, irresponsible adult. “Oh, that’s ___” is not a helpful response when the child has just done something very wrong. A child who regularly steals or tells lies must be helped over these anti-social behaviors. A committed teacher desires to help the parents “train up the child in the way he should go”. (Proverbs 22:6) Let’s work together to grow the child.
Parents should listen carefully to what the teacher is sharing with them. Accept the fact that children might act differently at school than they do at home. Parents who have observed in my classroom have seen their child in a new light and have very successfully corrected the inappropriate behaviors so they didn’t repeat, and have become my staunch supporters. Sweet! Then, home and school began to work together for the good of the child.
Parents should talk with the child and explain why the behavior was wrong. Listen to what they have to say because I firmly believe (Here comes a Walden truism…) that “children often have very good reasons for doing very wrong things.” When we listen to them we learn their thought processes and can discern how to teach them so they have more socially acceptable behaviors in the future.
Here’s a technique for chronic misbehavior: Silently give the child a small notebook with the following three questions written in it. Instruct the child to answer the three questions and silently hand the book back. If the answers show the child excusing their wrong behavior silently cross out the excuse and hand the book back to the child. When we see the child is admitting their misbehavior and willing to learn from the experience we talk with them; by then both the parent/teacher and child have calmed down and can reasonably talk it out.
1. What did you do that got you in trouble?
2. Why did you do it? (This gives the child opportunity to defend themselves if they feel they have a defense.)
3. What can you do differently next time you’re in that situation?
5. Disharmony in the home
Children dealing with disharmony in the home act unsettled, confused, scary, and discouraged. They may express anger; their world is being turned upside down, the rug is being pulled out from under them – it’s an emotional earthquake, and they don’t know how to handle it. They are afraid for the future. With these emotions, they have difficulty focusing on schoolwork and routines of the classroom.
These children may show signs of depression. Yes, even young children can be depressed. They may lose interest in things that were once dear to them. They may express fatigue and want to sleep much of the time.
Any disharmony in the home should be kept between husband and wife, keeping the child’s world as normal as possible. Parents should pray, go to the Lord together for a solution and remember why they married each other. Renew that sweetness, work out the issues amiably.
If a separation or divorce happens, convey to the child that it is not their fault but the failing of two adults. Children who feel guilty for the problem can make themselves sick trying to remedy the matter and can’t “work their job” of learning.
Children are a most precious gift from God – let’s do all we can to protect and nurture them so they can become all God planned for them to be.
Written by Mary Ann Walden
Former Education Department Chair of Private College
Droolees LLC Education Blog Contributor
Meet Mary Ann Walden - Mary Ann Walden taught in small Christian schools for 27 years in various combinations of Pre-K - Grade10. Eleven of those years were in one-room situations (Grades 1-8). For the next six years, as ED Dept. Chair of Ouachita Hills College, she trained future Christian teachers. Mrs. Walden and her husband have since retired to the beautiful Virginia mountains where she spends her time writing books for teachers and children. You can find her published works at www.Walden-Wonders.com