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  • “Student and Self”
  • “Student and Teacher”
  • “Student and Classroom Activities”
  • “Student and Peers”

The formulation of mental health for a student in a school is, without doubt, the result of at least four relationships. As a primary instrument for the development and fulfillment of these relationships, a teacher can never forget—even for a moment—that the student is the common element in all of them. Too, these relationships cannot be separated, for they are interrelated—and this must be the focus for teacher emphasis. The real question is, How does a classroom teacher relate to students as they function within these four relationships? Tweet this

The student and self

First, a teacher can best begin helping students by not “writing them off” because of behavior, achievement, or personality. Too often we “size up kids” on the first day of school. How often have you heard someone say, “I’ve got his number.” Impossible! When we do this, we have moved from diagnostician to prejudger. This is a mistake, for teacher and child alike.

Never forget that students come to the classroom with five to eighteen years to think about who they are, what they are, and what they want to be. Our role as teachers is not to view students as we see them ourselves. Rather, it is to view them as they see themselves. This is the key to understanding behavior. It is the only thing that allows a teacher to detect truth.

When we “size up” students and then proceed—we usually proceed in the wrong direction. Failure to view children as they see themselves causes teachers to put these students in positions within each of the four relationships that they can’t deal with. The most drastic example of this mistake is the student who displays a change in behavior that shocks us. How many times have you heard someone say, “Joan was such a nice girl. She had everything going for her. What happened?” One thing happened for sure. Somebody did not see Joan as she saw herself. Had someone been alert enough to recognize how Joan felt about herself, maybe, “what happened” wouldn’t have happened.

There are students sitting in classrooms that we don’t know. It’s time to begin finding out how they view themselves. Then, and only then, can individualized instruction have any real meaning.

Student-teacher relationship

Teachers must elevate their thinking regarding the student-teacher relationship. Many teachers’ thoughts include, “How can I get along with students, and how can students get along with me?” Needless to say, the emphasis is generally on the latter.

Never overlook the fact that students do not come to class liking the teacher or vice versa. But all students do enter class, consciously or subconsciously, looking for help. A teacher’s responsibility is to give it. Problems for teachers come when, for one reason or another, they deny help. And there are many ways to deny a child the student-teacher relationship which is necessary for sound mental health. Usually we deny students this relationship by what we are or are not doing, such as ignoring their questions, failing to keep appointments, or classifying their interests as trivial. Teachers need only to review their grade book name-by-name to see how they are affecting the student-teacher relationship of each entrusted to their care.

Student and curriculum activities

This is the student relationship we know best. Yet, we often think of the class and the curriculum rather than the student and the curriculum. Without doubt, curriculum activities place some students in an impossible situation. This is most obvious on the secondary level. Math, for instance, may be an overwhelming experience for some students, but without it they know they cannot graduate. Therefore, they struggle, often against almost insurmountable odds, and become more and more frustrated when no provision is made for them as an individual within the curriculum.

If you have difficulty accepting the need for flexible in-class requirements, examine some of the students in your school who are regarded as failures. You’ll find that at some point most of these students excelled in some areas and with some teachers. Yet, if you trace their history, you can often find a curriculum problem that caused a whole chain of events that spelled school trouble. A teacher must always be aware of the academic relationship in a child’s life. The relationship of student and curriculum activities can be the problem. Once this is detected, flexible in-class requirements, as well as teacher approach and attitude, can provide this student with fulfillment rather than frustration.

Student and peers

In some way or another everybody needs somebody. The child who cannot relate to his peers is in trouble. We are all familiar with the two extremes of students with peer relationship problems. Yet, we must not forget the vast majority who seem well adjusted. Too often we recognize the personality voids of the extremes, but we don’t know if the needs of those who make up the middle are being met. Yet, they too hold us responsible for this relationship.

There is much a teacher can do for a student to fulfill the need for peer relationships. We deny it most, though, by our structure. The lecture time situation does absolutely nothing. Neither does the “stand up, sit down, raise your hand, and I’ll recognize you” type teacher. Here, there is no relationship for the student at all, with any of his four relationships.

The Master Teacher recognizes that a teacher is the primary instrument in the creation of good mental health in the classroom. It is, without reservation, vital in determining the well-being of students as well as the success of a teacher.

The Master Teacher realizes that all four relationships are interrelated. In every situation, a teacher cannot look at one without also looking at the other three. In most cases that baffle a teacher, one of three mistakes has been made. Often the teacher has “figured out” the student without looking at the student and his or her four relationships—individually. Too, a teacher looks at one facet without awareness of the other three and their importance. Finally, a teacher denies students these relationships. When we do, we have arrived at all our answers without asking the right questions.

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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