I have been a teacher for ten years interacting with children all the way from pre-primary to 8th standard. I have been a parent for an even longer time – my daughter Ritu is in the 12th class and son Rohit in the 10th class. I can say, that just by the dint of this exposure, I am able to relate to children and their problems, more easily.
Children need to be handled properly, whether at home or in school. I think that shouting at them is a not a good idea. It undermines their esteem and gets the adults nowhere. The greatest happiness that I get from my profession is when I see children growing up with confidence. It outweighs the momentary delight of seeing children score 100/100!
I have seen that the transition from primary to middle school can be really tough for many children. Suddenly they are exposed to subjects that are broken down into more subjects and even more lessons.
Teachers keen on finishing their portions, become increasingly less tolerant. Even when children are just 11 years old, and their concentration levels are still developing, we want them to deliver to our ‘adult’ expectations.
I was teaching a 6th standard Social Studies class. One of my students, a girl, was really timid and hesitant. She had trouble comprehending the subject. Her grasp of English was not good. In her first unit test, she scored a ‘Zero’ in my subject. I knew that she needed special guidance, which I readily gave. I took the extra effort to make sure that she understood the subject better.
But first, I knew that she had to relate to me, to empathize with me. So, every morning, outside of class, I would ask her questions that had nothing to do with academics. For example: “Did you have breakfast today?” or “Did you have a chance to play yesterday?”
By allowing children to talk, we get to understand them better and get to see things from their perspective. Later we can straighten them out, or we can straighten ourselves! (Our own whims and fanciful views come in the way of understanding children, even as they desperately try to understand us.)
This kind of involvement helped. She smiled a lot more in class, was more attentive and started responding slowly in English. When she took her second unit test, she scored 40%. Her confidence got a tremendous boost. She has now passed the 10th standard exams with good grades. As long as I was in that school, no matter which class she was in, she would always come up to me quietly and ask me how I was doing! To know that a child loves you as a person, and has great regard for you as a teacher, is a soul-fulfilment.
My advice to parents in building self-confidence in their children:
Children who believe in themselves generally succeed in life; show your child that she is an important person by treating her with respect and believe in her. Give your child support and encouragement; this does not mean that you have to love her misbehaviour. Be firm and assertive when she misbehaves but continue to send the message that you love her in spite of her misbehaviour.
Do not do things for them that they can do themselves. Keep talking to them. Your children should trust you enough to confide in you. Give your children positive feedback whenever possible. They will respect you for your openness and for your wealth of information.
Preetha Abraham is currently the Head Teacher, Pre-Primary department at St John’s Public School, Chennai.