The role of the school is not restricted to mere imparting of knowledge. Children spend a major chunk of their time in school. They learn a lot more than History, Maths and Science! They learn to respect elders and peers. They learn to share, care and value each other. They learn modes of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, they learn morals and ethics……thus, schools and teachers play a major role in shaping and moulding a child.
As such, having some insights into how a child thinks, perceives, responds and interprets situations is critical for a teacher. A teacher who is able to see beyond a child who hits other children, and is sensitive to his mind, will know that he is probably being abused by someone at home. A sensitive teacher will notice a child who is quiet and withdrawn, and will try to understand his state of mind…..
A teacher need not be an expert in child psychology to be able to do this. Many experienced teachers will be able to instinctively tell what is going on in the mind of a child. However, some knowledge and understanding of basic principles of child psychology will certainly be helpful.
Let us look at some of the basic behaviours of children, and try to get an insight into the motives behind their behaviours.
· Negative Attention is Better Than No Attention: This is something which most teachers will have noticed. Every child craves for the teacher’s attention. Especially for you preschool teachers, you will have experience of children clamouring to show you little things, tell you stuff so that they have your attention. A child who feels that he or she is not receiving enough attention from you, will try and get your attention in various ways. If he feels good behaviour is not getting the attention he wants, he will resort to talking out of turn, hitting others, screaming so that the teacher’s attention is drawn to him. Remember, a lot of children’s misbehaviour is a cry for attention!
· Children Cant Express Their Troubles: Remember, most young children have not yet developed the skills to express what they are going through with the use of words. Thus, when children are upset, for whatever reason, you will detect changes in their behaviour. You will notice them doing things that they usually don’t do. A talkative and bubbly child will suddenly become withdrawn, a peaceful child may become aggressive….when you notice such changes, try to explore what is bothering the child.
· Children Possess High Doses of Imagination and Creativity: As teachers, its critical that we don’t, in any way, discourage this creativity. Children will often come up with novel and innovative suggestions, ideas that you and I wont even be able to think about…..at times, we may inadvertently discourage creativity in children. For example, one child in Jr.K.G. drew a landscape painting. Looking at it, the teacher exclaimed, “Its beautiful Rosie, but why have you painted the river purple? Water is never purple!” Well, the teacher is right, but a good way to teach this to the child would be to first ask her why she had drawn the water purple….you might be amazed with the answer!
· Children Learn Through Exploration: Children learn the most till the age of 7 years. During this phase, we have to allow them to explore their environment, find things out for themselves, and encourage their curiosity. Allow them to mess up with paint and paper, and above all, allow them to make mistakes while they learn to write, draw, and learn concepts!
· Every Child Is Unique: We often say that every child is unique, and then we compare children to each other and expect them to behave in a certain way! As teachers, its important for us to remember that every child is unique and special in some way, and no matter how experienced you are, there are going to be times when something some child does leaves you stunned for a minute. At such times, dealing with the situation sensitively will go a long way in boosting the child’s morale.
· Children Need Roots As Well as Wings! Children, when they first start attending school, have very little experience with structure. And all said and done, school entails some form of structure, rules and disciplines, even at the pre-school level. While this is certainly important and even desirable, as teachers, you need to be sensitive to the fact that you will have to help the child slowly get accustomed to structure and start internalising it, rather than follow it out of compulsion. At the same time, it is also important to give them enough space and freedom to allow their imagination and curiosity to thrive. This is a key challenge for every teacher: this balancing act between structure and freedom. As someone has so rightly said, we have to give our children wings to soar, while at the same time, give them a sense of security and belongingness, of being rooted firmly in reality!