The teacher is in the child’s mind a continuation of the parental character, their complement and sometimes their opposite. Teachers, both in primary and secondary school, inevitably influence the shaping of a young person. They are the educators of the child even when they don’t want to be. If they do not consciously and systematically try to be positive educators who will improve the mental health of their students, they necessarily become bad influences and damage the mental development of young people. But teachers in the upbringing of children face a more difficult task than parents. These raise only two or three or even just one child, from the beginning of life when the young psyche is more or less a “blank board”. Teachers, on the contrary, suddenly meet a whole group of students, each of whom is a separate individual, and all of them together are already quite developed personalities with a number of positive and negative traits. If the teacher wants to make the class a constructive group, if he/she wants to create a healthy emotional relationship with the children, it is necessary not only to properly educate his/her students but also to re-educate them when necessary. Therefore, the teacher must know not only the psychology and pedagogy of the average child but also the psychology and basics of child psychotherapy that manifests neurotic disorders and behavioral disorders. About one in four students is such a child.
The reform of our school system sets as the basic principle of the school that it is “not only an educational but also an institution for raising children.” Therefore, it is the duty of teachers to deal with the education of students. But they often start from completely wrong settings. In order for a school to truly become an educational institution in the true sense of the word, it needs to fundamentally change its attitude towards children. The average teacher classifies his/her students into “good” and “bad.” It starts from a point of view that has a strong tone of morality, ethical evaluation of children, and therefore contains a judgmental attitude towards the child. The measure in the evaluation of children is their progress in school, the grades they achieve, the degree of their discipline in school and the way they treat the teacher. If the child is a good student, if it is disciplined and polite in dealing with the elders, and friendly towards other students, teachers have the right to be satisfied with it. But they have no right to condemn, underestimate, neglect or even ridicule a child who is doing poorly in school, who is having a hard time, cannot adapt and behaves in a negative way. Such a child needs to be re-educated, which means helping it to take a healthier, more constructive attitude towards life, people and itself. We cannot help by condemnation, but only by understanding.
A child who does not get along at school is mentally damaged in some way. It is a patient, so it should be treated as a patient. It is clear to everyone that it would be completely illogical and inhumane to insult, punish or even expose a person who is physically ill to humiliation and other psychological injuries. It is clear to everyone that such a man should be treated and not condemned. However, the belief that a man who suffers mentally should be treated in the same way has not yet penetrated the minds of many teachers. This is especially true for children who can be relieved of various mental ailments with much more success than adults. In many schools, “bad” students are still condemned, instead of being understood and provided with educational assistance.
Such an attitude towards children is illustrated by many examples. There are primary schools that can’t wait for a “bad” student to turn 15, to stop being a student and to be expelled from school on the basis of “legal law”. The school does not care at all about what will happen to this child. With an incomplete primary school education, it cannot go to any other school, and at the age of 15 it cannot even get a job. If it lives in unsettled family circumstances, it often has no choice but to break through, and this inevitably leads it to delinquent behavior.
A 14-year-old student took part in a fight on the playground. Because the police detained him, he was “unjustifiably” absent for a few days, and the school transferred him to another school to which he allegedly belongs according to his place of residence. But that school did not want to enroll him “because he had negative grades”, so the boy stayed on the street and started hanging out with similar “exiles”.
One 15-year-old girl was expelled from school even though she only finished 6th grade. The student has only modest intellectual abilities, and the gross psychological abuse in the family has damaged her emotional life so much that she cannot learn systematically and follow the lessons in a collected way. Teachers were not worried when her mother, learning that her daughter had been expelled from school, threatened to kick her out of the house. To the intervention of the counseling center for psycho-hygiene, they replied that the school is not – a social institution! They didn’t even feel self-conscious when they learned that their former student had engaged in prostitution.
At the provincial school for nurses, the teachers’ council decided to expel two students two months before graduation who were found to have spent the night in a hotel with a pub singer. Such a decision was made “to preserve the reputation of the school and to prevent the spread of immorality in it.” At the same time, no one cared where the two girls who were left without an occupation would go, and they were also orphans, without the possibility of finding understanding and support in someone. Because even the home decided to get rid of them because of their “immorality”.
The basic problem in the teacher’s relationship with children is the acquisition of authority. Teachers can provide it if they adhere to the educational principles we have recommended to parents and other educators. The most important thing is for teachers to stay away from authority in their dealings with students. Authoritarianism is the most common educational mistake in school practice. It is known that teachers often harass their students, threaten them, rigidly impose their will on them, emphasize their authority over them and punish them in a completely personal way. It is time for the school to abandon typical authoritative actions such as reprimands from class teachers, principals, etc., then negative grades from subjects due to undisciplined behavior, exclusion of restless students from classes, placing a ban on students to not come to school for two to three days and the like. All these actions are an expression of the pedagogical impotence of teachers. They are a sign of their capitulation to the problem of raising children. At the same time, they are a blow to the teacher’s authority, which can trample itself to such an extent that, for example, a class teacher tells his high school students:
‘I don’t know how you should be treated; tell me what to do with you. “
And one student did not refrain from answering him:
‘We don’t know that. You must know that! ”
It is not the task of teachers to only ensure their own authority, but to suppress the consequences of parental authority in students’ behavior. Among their students, they meet timid, distrustful or defiant and aggressive, that is, painfully ambitious, vain and greedy children, types of students who are the result of too strict, greedy upbringing in the family. Such children need to be helped to gain confidence in the teacher’s personality, to accept the class collective as equal collaborators, and to gain self-confidence in school.
Teachers can greatly help a child to establish itself in school. It is a very important task of a teacher to constantly encourage his/her students, to develop their abilities, to constantly point out their progress. Activation, encouragement and recognition of every, even the smallest success is more important for the student, the less confident he/she is, the more passive he/she is and the less work habits he/she has.
Teachers often make mistakes in the fact that they like to follow the line of least resistance, so they deal with good students, they engage them in various class activities, at school events, in extracurricular activities. Weaker students are often neglected, no one cares about them, they are left more or less to themselves. It is true that every child needs stimulation; there is no doubt that every child should be given the opportunity of affirmation. But it is logical that a passive, discouraged or uninterested child should be much more encouraged than one who is already active in itself and has enough self-confidence. Various jobs and responsibilities in the classroom, various services to the teacher, various duties in the pioneer organization, performances at events, participation in sports, art and other groups – all this should not serve rewarding successful students but encouraging the less able, activating the passive and encouraging the discouraged.
If the teacher does not do so, but encourages the active and neglects the passive students, he/she makes a double educational mistake: by incessant acknowledgments, and often with undeserved praise, he/she turns good students into conceited ones, while the weaker ones are even more discouraged. This increases the natural differences among children in the intensity of ability and work performance. And the teacher’s task is to reduce them. It is clear that a less gifted child will never show the effect of its work as the more gifted will show it. But encouraging successful and neglecting unsuccessful students leads to the fact that the successful in most cases really show all their capacities, while the less successful give less than they could give.
The teacher is very unfair when he/she especially rewards the students who have achieved the best results in mastering the teaching material. Sometimes great success in school is only a consequence of the high intelligence of the student, and is not an expression of his/her diligence. It is not the child who is responsible for its mind, but only the extent to which it uses and develops its mental abilities. There are children who work hard at school, invest a lot of energy to master the school material, and yet achieve only mediocre results because their intellectual abilities are more modest. It is very unfair to neglect such a child and not acknowledge its diligence in learning. It strongly discourages it and deprives it of the will to work.
If, therefore, a student is to receive a book as a gift at the end of the school year, then let it be the most diligent, not the most successful. An excellent grade is already a sufficient reward for an excellent student. If you need to choose a child to be sent on a trip, then let it not be one that is in itself agile, resourceful and confident, but rather go to the timid and shy one, in order for it to practice adapting to a foreign environment and strangers. When preparing for a school ceremony, certain roles should be entrusted to children who find it harder to assert themselves in class or are too timid and insecure. And responsibilities towards the collective, chore duties and the like should not be entrusted to disciplined students and excellent students, but to individuals who have difficulties in adjusting to the class collective.
As teachers do not understand the child’s need to assert itself and satisfy its personal interests, the example of eighth grade elementary school students best shows: a boy has accumulated several negative grades because he is deeply discouraged by feelings of neglect from his older brother who is an excellent student. The boy is bright, but because of the insecurity in himself and out of defiance towards his parents he learns nothing. He loves sports, excursions and various manual activities. There are handball and basketball teams in the school, there is a student cooperative with a carpentry workshop, then a scout organization that occasionally organizes excursions. But the teachers forbid the boy to participate in these activities because he has negative grades, so he has to use his free time exclusively for learning. They don’t realize that it’s completely unbelievable that a boy will accept teachings because he’s not allowed to do what he aspires to. He is intelligent enough to improve his grades without much effort, even if he only studies as much time a day as he has left after school and in the time for “free activities”. Satisfaction of personal aspirations would encourage him to deal with what he does not feel a spontaneous stimulus for.
Teachers missed the opportunity to give the boy the opportunity to affirm and gain more self-confidence. If they made an effort to understand his emotional difficulties, they would soon discover that the boy needs the trust of the environment so everything will be fine. But he is constantly and consistently insulted and underestimated everywhere. At home, they tell him about his older brother’s excellent grades and lament his failure. At school, they are appalled by his ignorance and predict a dark future for him. Where then to find motivation for systematic work?
In this case, the teachers had to do the exact opposite: encourage the boy to various extracurricular activities that attract him, they had to monitor his behavior and acknowledge his every success. In this way, they would show that they trust him, that they expect something positive, that they consider him a full-fledged man. It would be the counterbalance to the parental underestimation that would motivate him to embrace learning with more ambition.
Sometimes it happens that teachers spoil a child, especially when they consider it dear to them and give it a certain advantage and privileges over other children. This is a double educational mistake, as the unequal treatment of students also refers to spoiling them, which is just as damaging to the privileged child as its classmates.
Thus, the teacher always helps only one student during dictation – otherwise of average ability – and leaves the others to themselves. The girl does not see her mistakes in the tasks and her tasks are always “perfect”. In addition, it gives her better grades than she deserved with her answers. Discipline in that class began to weaken, and the results in mastering the teaching materials were declining day by day. Many students became restless, irritable and disobedient. The teacher did not want to see that all this was a consequence of her insulting the class by favoring one student. The consequences were also borne by this student because the class soon began to boycott her, calling her a “nerd” and a “swindler” and excluding her from every game or venture.
Teachers are given the opportunity to gradually eliminate the consequences of spoiling children in the family. They should ignore the various whims of such children and not support their conceit. But at the same time, they need to be patiently and gradually accustomed to work, to develop their initiative and enable real affirmation. A spoiled child should be burdened more with various duties at school than an active, diligent and self-initiated student. If such a child is too selfish or aggressive towards peers, the teacher should not intervene when it experiences the unpleasant consequences of its unfriendly behavior. Insults and even beatings from other children will be useful because they will motivate it much more to change its behavior than the complaints and advice of adults.
If a child needs emotional warmth at home, it needs it just as much at school. Moreover, the warm, friendly, and well-meaning actions of teachers can be a counterbalance to the psychological abuse to which a child is sometimes exposed in the family. For a child to succeed in school, it is extremely important that teachers be tactful with it and show respect for its individuality. The various difficulties of the child should be taken into account, it should be considerate of its shortcomings, some of its weaknesses for which it is not responsible should be discreetly ignored, e.g. various forms of defects.
The teacher should not treat the child like this: the student stutters when answering, blushes with shame and, embarrassed by its inconvenience, stops talking. The teacher then writes a negative grade to the student. Teachers should not offend their students. And yet they do. We were once asked by a group of boys with whom we conducted group psychotherapy if the professors had the right to call them, fools, idiots, vagrants and the like. Such tactlessness of groups is a pedagogical mistake that regularly causes multiple negative consequences. Offended children become defiant, transfer their resistance from the teachers to their learning, and gain a very negative experience of interpersonal relationships.
There are teachers who believe that they will encourage a child to learn more diligently or behave more positively if they embarrass it in front of other children by exposing its mistakes to the public and branding it for its shortcomings. A headmaster of a primary school received a notification from the police that one of his students had stolen domesticated pigeons. Then the warden came to the boy’s class, took him out in front of the board, scolded him in front of everyone, and asked his peers to ridicule him, and then to turn their backs on him and not speak a word to him for eight days, “let him feel that he behaved bad towards the community ”. The warden did not think for a moment why the boy had committed the theft. It never occurred to him that this might be an expression of the boy’s mental suffering for which he cannot find understanding in anyone. It was indeed a very unhappy, depressed and oversensitive child who had suffered from abuse at home for years. When the principal announced a boycott, the boy acted logically: he no longer wanted to go to school. The mental injury inflicted on him by the principal was so profound that he had to be transferred to another school and subjected to psychotherapy in order to recover mentally and dare to continue his education.
Equally meaningless is the custom of some teachers to separate an undisciplined student from other children and put him/her in the special desk for punished students. Such a procedure is reminiscent of a medieval “pillar of shame.” Tying a man to such a pillar probably never encouraged him to like people and treat them in a more positive way. Then why expect a child to adapt better to the class and accept work discipline when he or she is publicly branded? If the teacher understands the upbringing of children at all, he/she will treat undisciplined students in a completely different way, he/she will not allow the punished student to perform various mischief while he/she is sitting in that desk (because he/she is now outlawed anyway, so he/she will at least allow himself/herself to in a way that he/she will really deserve punishment!), to make himself/herself a madman, a clown or a class hero, and thus to play with the teacher and humiliate him/her in front of the class. The real teacher will first of all look for the cause of indiscipline, so he/she will try to remove it; in addition, it will employ the student as much as possible in the classroom, give him/her the opportunity to achieve any kind of success and experience recognition. Then the student’s indiscipline will soon disappear.
Teacher injustice in grading, rewarding, or punishing students is a form of psychological abuse of children that should be avoided. Such an action creates an insurmountable emotional gap between students and teachers. A child who becomes a “universal culprit” in the classroom is a particularly easy target. There are teachers who can’t forgive a mistake, even when the student corrected it a long time ago. Then they see in that student the culprit for everything that is wrong. If the classroom is noisy, he/she is certainly responsible for it; if someone was missing something, he/she must have stolen it; if someone broke a window, he/she must have done it, etc. It is quite understandable that the “universal culprit” then turns to fierce resistance against the school, then runs away from school, neglects learning, becomes defiant, or really begins to develop all those negative traits teachers attribute to him/her.
It happens that in a number of various forms of psychological abuse at school, there are teachers who treat children in a sadistic way.
Thus, one school found out that a 14-year-old student had lost her temper and spent two nights outside her parents’ home. Then two teachers investigated her, forcing her to admit that she was a prostitute. Since she did not want to admit anything, they sent her to take a medical examination. They were deeply disappointed when they found out that the girl was never sexually active.
It’s not hard to guess how that girl feels at school after that kind of treatment of her personality. It would be unnatural if she had the will to learn and appreciate her teachers. It should not be forgotten that a child cannot separate its emotional attitude towards school and learning from the emotional experience of its teachers. This is true not only for younger but also for older children, and even for youth. The child accepts the teaching material as it accepts the teacher. If it respects and loves the teacher, the child will also love what that teacher teaches it. It will find it difficult to show interest in a subject it learns from an unsympathetic teacher, and it will hate the matter served to it by the hated teacher.
It is wrong to expect young people to spontaneously show interest in this or that subject in school. It is the task of the teacher to direct the very general need of the young person for the acquisition of knowledge to a specific teaching material. That is why it is meaningless for some teachers to believe that a child is “obliged to learn”, that it “must feel an obligation” towards the school just because it is a student. It can build in itself a sense of duty to learn only on condition that it finds itself in school, that it affirms itself, that it finds understanding and emotional support, that it finds an opportunity to meet its natural psychic needs. In that case, one should not preach about its obligations: it will accept them spontaneously. And all moral persuasions would remain useless if the school resented it.
It should be understood that children do not go to school so that teachers have something to live on, but teachers are there for the children. That is why the curricula and the whole mentality of the school regime should be adapted to the utmost psychological needs of the child. Everything that is taught in school should be interesting, attractive and connected with the reality of life. The child is a realist in its attitude towards life, so it can only be interested in what it experiences in some reality of life. This is also true for the youth. Too often, the school provides children with abstract, “pure” science, and gives them too little practical life knowledge. Many young people would find it easier to accept grammar rules if teaching literature became their teacher of life; they would rather study the biology of unicellular animals if they knew the physiology of their own sexuality better in that subject, and so on.
The teacher himself/herself needs to adapt to the child the most. A good teacher can only be an emotionally settled, self-confident, strong, cheerful and socially positive person. It can only be a person who loves children, has an understanding for youth and is able to empathize with their problems. A good teacher must master his/her profession, he/she must be a skilled, casual and witty lecturer.