Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Children as Individuals - By Cara Potapshyn Meyers

I came upon a post on Facebook from a friend last week that brought up a topic that elicited quite a few comments...most of them pretty intense.

The gist of the post was that teachers don’t see children as individuals. (This coming from a teacher, no less!!) We already know how I feel regarding my son’s teacher (see last week’s blog), but here was a thread of responses mirroring the very issue I brought up last week.

My friend did not express that ALL teachers present themselves in this manner. She did, however, give an example of how the teachers in a particular situation in my son’s school, completely disregarded a child’s needs because it went against their agenda. This frustrated the child and caused a huge scene. Many angry Moms related similar stories or validated the posts that were written.

So I asked myself, if this is going on with children other than my son, (and yes, it could just be our particular school, even though the school district is listed as one of the top 25 in the nation), what is going on in other schools? And how can teachers see their students as individuals? When I explained to a cousin that there were only 17 children in my son’s class, her response was, “Seventeen!!! When my daughter was in 2nd Grade (10 years ago), she had close to 30! How can children in a class of 17 NOT get more individualized attention?!” Good question!

So I investigated how teachers can see their students as individuals, and came up with this list:

The 9 Temperament Traits
Classic child development research conducted by Doctors Chess and Thomas has identified 9 temperamental traits:

Activity Level: This is the child's "idle speed” or how active the child is generally. Is the child always on the go? Or, does the child prefer sedentary quiet activities? Highly active children may channel such extra energy into success in sports; may perform well in high-energy careers and may be able to keep up with many different responsibilities.

Distractibility: The degree of concentration and paying attention displayed when a child is not particularly interested in an activity. This trait refers to the ease with which external stimuli interfere with ongoing behavior. Does the child become sidetracked easily when attempting to follow routine or working on some activity? High distractibility is seen as positive when it is easy to divert a child from an undesirable behavior but seen as negative when it prevents the child from finishing school work.

Intensity: The energy level of a response whether positive or negative. Does the child show pleasure or upset strongly and dramatically? Or does the child just get quiet when upset? Intense children are more likely to have their needs met and may have depth and delight of emotion rarely experienced by others. These children may be gifted in dramatic arts. Intense children tend to be exhausting to live with.

Regularity: The trait refers to the predictability of biological functions like appetite and sleep. Does the child get hungry or tired at predictable times? Or, is the child unpredictable in terms of hunger and tiredness? As grown-ups irregular individuals may do better than others with traveling as well as be likely to adapt to careers with unusual working hours.

Sensory Threshold: Related to how sensitive this child is to physical stimuli. It is the amount of stimulation (sounds, tastes, touch, temperature changes) needed to produce a response in the child. Does the child react positively or negatively to particular sounds? Does the child startle easily to sounds? Is the child a picky eater or will he eat almost anything? Does the child respond positively or negatively to the feel of clothing? Highly sensitive individuals are more likely to be artistic and creative.

Approach/Withdrawal: Refers to the child's characteristic response to a new situation or strangers. Does the child eagerly approach new situations or people? Or does the child seem hesitant and resistant when faced with new situations, people or things? Slow-to-warm up children tend to think before they act. They are less likely to act impulsively during adolescence.

Needless to say, my son falls high in every one of these categories. But does that make him a “bad” child? Not at all. In fact, if you channel these traits in positive directions, you can help a child reach even more than their potential. And these temperamental traits are not only helpful for teachers. Parents can use the same information to help see their children as the individuals their children are and channel their attributes appropriately.

I feel that both teachers and parents need to work together when a child has high needs in each of these temperamental traits. It CAN be done. But both sides must be willing to work together for the sake of the child! Ignoring or demeaning a child with high temperamental traits just leads to a combustible situation, as my Facebook friend relayed. Wouldn’t it be far easier and less stressful to use these traits and apply them to the children teachers are working with, so that a positive outcome or resolution of a problem can be quietly resolved?

Is this really too much to ask of a teacher?
Is this really too much to ask of us all?

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Blogger Karen du Toit said...

It is not too much to ask of us all!
We as parents also need to see our kids as individuals, and not sometimes as extensions of ourselves...
Thanks for the post!

12:45 AM  

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