November 30, 2012

Guest Post: How the Role of a Teacher Goes Beyond Simply Educating Children

Here is a guest post from health writer Lily Brooke about meeting all children's needs in the classroom by recognizing each child's strengths and weaknesses--including recognizing the signs of different medical conditions.

How the Role of a Teacher Goes Beyond Simply Educating Children

Being a teacher can be a totally rewarding job – in fact there are not many other professions where you can attain the type of job satisfaction that comes with teaching the next generation of young minds. Helping to shape, educate and influence a child is a fantastically gratifying way to earn a living that’s for sure. Teachers have key responsibilities that go above and beyond sticking to the curriculum and coaching youngsters on the fundamentals in education.

As the 31st U.S President Herbert Hoover put it: ‘Children are our most valuable resource’ which is a simple but inspiring quote that helps us to understand the importance of our small people and the affect they will have on the world. As teachers, we have a responsibility to make sure we get the best out of our kids and enhance their individuality. Recognising that not all children are the same is major important key to good teaching. Some are great at writing, others not so. Other kids will succeed in sports, while some sit on the sidelines, some kids struggle with reading and concentration, some are bookworms. Whatever the strengths and weaknesses of a child in the classroom, it’s up to the teaching staff to recognise what they are and to do something about it.

Looking for signs that something is wrong in the classroom
Children spend much of their lives at school where they are entrusted into the care of the education system and looked after by us teachers. Teaching is not just about reading, writing, and arithmetic; we have a social responsibility as their entrusted guardians when they are in our classroom. So it’s up to us to spot any potential problems they might be facing. Why does Johnny seem to loose concentration so easily? Is Carla struggling with her writing more than the other kids? Harrison seems to be tired all of the time. Paula cannot seem to make friends with the other children, I wonder why? Katherine seems to be loosing a lot of weight, is everything OK? These are just a few examples of the questions that could fly through a teacher’s mind. It may be difficult to look out for these types of things when you are faced with a classroom of 20 or 30 kids all battling to be heard, but surely it’s the duty of teachers to pay close attention to their little people.

Recognition is often the first step to solving a more long-term problem. So being aware of the different types of disorders and medical conditions within our society is a good start for teachers who are determined to do everything possible for their pupils. Whilst teachers are not experts in medical matters, they are the eyes and the ears of the classroom and are often the first ones to observe unusual behaviour and the early signs that something may be wrong. Teachers may catch a glimpse of a behaviour that makes them wonder if there is an underlying problem that needs to be examined and investigated. Using the examples from above; what if Johnny has the condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? What is the next move? What if Paula struggles to form friendships with the other kids because she has symptom of Asperger’s Syndrome (SA)? Harrison is not a lazy kid at all; he’s actually suffering from an undiagnosed form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that makes him tired all of the time. This is serious stuff and teachers are at the forefront of looking out for the early warning signs of little known conditions that have serious affects on a child’s life. There’s a rich information source available to us with much being written about these types of issues from the likes of the Autism Society and other credible organisations geared towards challenging behaviour in the classroom.

None of us want to label children with a ‘disease’ or ‘disorder’, no way. But teachers are duty bound to educate themselves about all manner of things that could be thrown at them in the classroom and this includes knowing a little about some of the issues affecting children of today. Knowing how to recognise the early signs of a medical condition or a physiological issue could be the start of some much-needed help and support the child needs in order to live a healthy and happy life.

Post written by Lily Brooke

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