Monday, June 30, 2008

The Problem Child

Friday night I went to dinner with my friend Gabriella, who is a former "student" and teaches pre-school. For the record, when women go to dinner we don't just talk about sex and clothes, we get deep. After I told her my life saga, she nonchalantly told me that she was having a bit of a problem with the other teachers in her school, because of how she treats this one special child.

This little boy is now six years old and will attend Elementary School next year. Gabriella began teaching him three years ago...he was the type of child who refused to sit at the table during lunchtime, threw chairs across the room in anger, bit other kids, used his hands and never, never let himself be hugged or cuddled.

THIS is the type of child that changes the dynamic of a classroom...a teacher's worst nightmare, or if the teacher is sensitive and intelligent, her greatest gift. This type of child is "needy." This "neediness" requires that the teacher "give" a little more...a lot more. When a teacher recognizes this child's "cry for help" and answers it, she has the power to save a life.

What child doesn't need to be loved, hugged and told that he/she can conquer the world? Gabriella told me that this little boy used to say, "I can't do this!" "I am not good at that!" "I don't care!" As teachers, we never know what truly goes on behind the doors of these kids' homes, but when a three year old says, "I'm no good," he heard that from someone else. It is our job as teachers and PARENTS to motivate our kids and let them know that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

A problem child in the classroom can be very frustrating for the teacher, because almost automatically, the teacher "teaches to that child" and not the rest of the class. Oftentimes, the "more intelligent" children are held back to maintain a solid equilibrium based on the problem child's mood of the day. Parents of "intelligent children" do not appreciate this decline in academic advancement.

What does the teacher do at this point? Does she abandon the problem child, let him throw chairs across the room, have him spend the day in the principal's office, etc? Or, does she fight the system and involve the rest of the children in something more important than academic growth...psycho-social growth?

I've always opted for number two. When a class of children sees that a teacher loves a child and that teacher renders that class participants in understanding the needs of another child, those children develop a level of sensitivity that goes way beyond anything that academics could possibly teach. Children have a remarkable capacity for sensitivity despite their natural state of being ego-centric even at such a young age.

I felt guilty every time I left him at that Pre-School door, knowing that his mood of the day would directly affect the equilibrium of the classroom, the teachers and...the other children.
His classroom teachers were unable to control him and decided to concentrate on the rest of the class...
Luckily, and we have ALWAYS been so fortunate, he had a support teacher in the classroom who LOVED him, hugged him, took him out of the class for mental breaks and protected him. The classroom teachers hated her. I loved her. Jordan loved her. She helped save my son.

BTW, three years later, Gabriella has to let go and send her "Problem Child" to Elementary School. She told me that the other day they had a little fight because he wouldn't sit down and do his work. When he saw that she was angry, he walked up to her and said, "Gabriella, you are beautiful."
Gabriella asked, "How beautiful?"
He said, "Really beautiful."
She insisted, "How beautiful?"
He said, "More beautiful than the two dogs that are kissing on your shirt."
Then...he hugged her.

1 comment:

Abbie said...

Looks like that problem child has an extremely sensitive side. I am glad to see that you are one of those that refuse to give up on one. You were able to bring what you learned at home in work...