Effective Teaching Strategies for Social Issues in the Classroom

I recently asked a 23 year old client who has survived years of social awkwardness, bullying and loneliness what she remembers as the best thing a childhood teacher ever did for her confidence, and what was the worst thing one of her teachers ever did.
Her answers:
Client: My favorite teacher was my 5th grade teacher. He was a man with a good sense of humor and gave all of us in the room a complimentary nickname. Mine was “the great librarian” because I  did such a great job organizing the books in the room.
Me: Do you think that had anything to do with the fact that you just earned a Master’s Degree in Library Science?
Client:  Oh, I know it had everything to do with my choice of majors. From the 5th grade on I wanted to be a librarian.
Me:  And what was the worst thing about a teacher’s manner or methods that you remember  as a child with social difficulties?
Client:  I had the worst gym teacher.  I can remember having her for many consecutive years and she never realized how bad it was to have the kids pick the teams. I dreaded gym because I was always the last one chosen for a team. If only she had us count off numbers!
My client has had much success in her life since then, and is what you would call a “late bloomer”.  She has several close friends, a long term boyfriend, and is well on her way to having the career of her dreams. However, it is such a shame to think that so much emotional pain could have been avoided with just a little common sense.
This reminds me of my own experience with my daughter when she was in 7th grade. She was out of contact lenses for a few days and kept leaning forward and squinting at everything. One of her own teacher nicknamed her “space invader”.  In no time at all the nickname was used by many students in her middle school team.  To think I had to call and explain to the teacher that her comments have a significant impact on how students perceive each other.

So, as you start to think of which teacher you would like for your child next year, please keep some basic tips in mind:

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“Happy teachers make happy kids”
  1. Happy teachers (i.e. those who enjoy their jobs) instinctively know how to make kids feel happy.
  2. If your child lacks in the ability to connect, then what he/she most needs is a teacher who  is skilled at connecting with children.

Here are some examples:

  • Telling a child a secret as he is getting ready to go home on the 1st day of school
  • Giving regular compliments and recognition for accomplishments (e.g. writing award)
  • Incorporating your child’s favorite hobby into the classroom discussion or activity
      3.  General manner of conducting the class and relating
           to each child as an individual with unique gifts.
       Some mannerisms to pay atttention to:
  • Their energy level- calm, bubbly, loud, quiet, serious, or smiley
  • Flexibility of personality- Rigid authority figures usually clash with rigid students
    This is very different from being a firm and consistent teacher which is important.
  • Responsiveness to parents- It’s a long year when you have a teacher who doesn’t return phone calls!
  • Extent of involving parents in the classroom (for early grades)
So, if your school allows you to request a teacher, then I would recommend asking other parents in the next grade to describe their experiences. Remember to always get more than one opinion because everyone has different experiences with different personalities. I would stay away from assumed reputations of the past. Ask other parents specific questions that pertain to recent years only. If you are not able to request a certain teacher, then request certain qualities which describe the above.

Remember these suggestions are for children with social-emotional issues, and prioritize boosting a child’s self esteem and confidence.  If your priorities are academic in nature, then although the above are always beneficial, they may not be all that you need to focus on.

For more information on improving social skills at school through speech therapy and teacher collaboration go to:

http://www.nichcy.org/Research/EvidenceForEducation/Pages/SocialSkillsIntro.aspx

If your child needs help call Judy Rosenfield at 860-217-0098

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