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Growing up…a step at a time

Children should be allowed the privilege of being children. Ideally, adults are fortunate if they can look back upon their own childhood as a time of fun and progressive growth towards maturity. As teachers, the “growing up” of a child is one of our primary concerns. Yet, we must also be careful not to be the force that prevents children from being children. Sometimes, for various reasons—including our great expectations for them—we do not. Mostly though, we simply mistake normal for abnormal behavior. We erroneously judge behavior by situation rather than age. Tweet this

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Applying our knowledge

What is appropriate or unruly behavior for a seven-year-old or a teenager? What is excessive rowdiness, and what is just a part of growing up? These are very important questions to a teacher. Often we know the answers but don’t apply them in the classroom situation. Tweet this

For instance, we know that children of certain ages will behave impulsively. We know many children will break a rule or be unruly even when they are trying their best not to be. We know many can’t concentrate in the presence of a particular friend, will look out the window daydreaming, or speak out rather than raise their hand. We know children would rather fall into a chair than sit down quietly. We know they would rather run than walk, fight rather than solve difficulties, touch rather than keep their hands to themselves, and be noisy rather than be quiet. Though we cannot permit extremes of these behaviors and teach school, neither can we let it unnerve us to the point that we quit teaching. Certainly, we must remember that even though we can’t permit an excess of this behavior in class, neither can we call it abnormal. It is not. It is simply an example of children acting like children. In reality, the only difference between the ineffective and the effective teacher is that one takes what they know about children and channels this energy and behavior in the right direction.

It is extremely important for a teacher to apply his knowledge of student maturity in the teaching situation. If not, both the teacher effectiveness and mental well-being are in jeopardy. Without reservation, a teacher cannot take the misbehavior of a child personally. School is not a teacher’s world—it is a student’s world. Therefore, it is a teacher’s responsibility to help children adjust to their world—not to the teacher’s. Never forget, even though we must structure the classroom and set the standards for student behavior, children are not mature.

Childhood is not maturity—it is a movement towards maturity. This fact needs consideration. Often, especially in the home, it is a case of giving children too much, too soon—or more, expecting behavior and achievement beyond normality. Those children who are allowed to be children—in the full sense of the word—and develop progressively toward maturity appear to make much happier adults than those who are, indeed, “little adults” at seven, eleven, or fifteen years of age. This false maturity is brittle and seems to break at the first stress. Too often, these children were not allowed to develop with guidance in a natural way. Rather, they were forced into adulthood, and the result is a behavior that did not develop from guided, self-formulated standards.

Higher standards and greater achievement

A teacher would do well to remember often their own childhood development. However, once maturity is reached, it is not always an easy thing to do. Yet, a comparison between both the schools and children of yesterday with those of today will reveal striking contrasts. There is much more pressure for teacher competency today. Likewise, there is much more pressure on students. The majority of mothers and fathers are educated—and school and grades are stressed in the home. The pressures that have resulted from these situations worry many professional educators.

Furthermore, today the curriculum choices alone allow unmatched opportunity. Individualized instruction, team teaching, grouping, and electronic equipment help children achieve at their own rate of speed. Area vocational schools have filled a large void in our educational system and continue to play an important role in meeting the needs of children. Unthought of subjects in the worlds of new technologies and computer programming are preparing children for the world of work. It all results in greater human input at an earlier age.

The Master Teachers knows
we must always strive to be better

and expect more from our students.

The Master Teacher knows we expect much from children today—indeed, far more than that which was expected of us. Certainly, this is not wrong. We must always strive to be better.

Yet, we must not forget the relativity of a child’s world. As “expecters,” we should not forget that kids still need time to be kids. Even though expectations have changed, children’s reactions and development patterns have not. They may have “sped up” some with the changing times, but their sequential growth remains the same. The Master Teacher knows it is not abnormal for children to desire play more than study. It’s not abnormal if they seem to prefer soccer or dance to books. It’s not abnormal for a child’s mind to wonder, for silly thoughts to slip out as words, or for mischievousness to be displayed occasionally. The Master Teacher knows there is a time when boys begin to notice girls and vice versa, and it’s not uncommon for the thoughts of either to be consuming. Restraint is their hardest discipline to achieve. All of these behaviors are as normal as T-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes in the growing up of a child.

The Master Teacher responds to this behavior in a positive way, realizing that it is our responsibility to identify the normal from the abnormal and the occasional from the excessive. We must guide a child toward maturity—but not push. Yes, some childish, immature behavior must be curtailed if an appropriate learning situation is to be maintained for all. However, a teacher can never berate, condemn, or ridicule a child’s normal behavior simply to make teaching or control easier. Children must be allowed to be children if they are to grow up in a normal, healthy way.

Thought for the Week

In response to the uncertainty and disruption in which we find ourselves, researchers and experts say that the number one skill for survival and success in today’s environment is adaptability.

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