Teachers have a role to play too

Teachers have a role to play too

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Teachers have a role to play too

Since teachers deal with students first-hand every day, they are better equipped to handle their stress, believes Dr Sridhar G

Incidents of students facing extreme stress and pressure, especially during the exam season, are highly common. And when situations like the recent Chemistry paper leak scandal in Karnataka arise, it’s very difficult for the young minds to keep calm.

Of course, there are many student helplines set up to cater to the needs of all the students. Apart from this, there are many counselling centres that target stressed and anxious children.

Interestingly, most of these centres have top psychiatrists, academicians, department officials and even neurologists to offer assistance to both children and parents. However, a crucial constituent of the education ecosystem has been missing from the composition of these help centres — the teachers!

The first choice

But come to think of it, when a student is unable to manage the pressures of the academic world, why would he seek the aid of a counsellor first and not his teacher? The bane of the Indian education system is that we have a textbook-focused learning process. Students in their senior classes are naturally the most stressed with the added pressure of qualifying to a preferred choice of college or university.

An equally strained teacher tends to disregard the comprehension level of students or their wellbeing in an attempt to cover the vast portions of the prescribed syllabus. Consequently, both students and teachers have little scope for interaction beyond academics.

Pushed by the urge to be the best in everything, students collapse emotionally when they fail to rise to the expectations of their parents or themselves. It is here that teachers can play a significant role and create a bigger impact than counsellors or parents themselves. Every student is unique and has a different way of responding to and expressing trauma.

Since teachers have direct interactions with students every day, they are better positioned to understand the character of the students, their strengths and weaknesses than an external counsellor.

However, to fully comprehend the persona of a student, a teacher should be willing to have an intimate interaction with the student in a structured manner. This will enable a child to develop complete confidence with his teacher over time.

In the classroom, a teacher should be alert to a student’s change in usual behaviour like a drop in marks, regular absenteeism or a tendency to stay away from others. These can all be indications of a student dealing with stress.

Overall wellbeing

The need of the hour is to establish a comprehensive mechanism in our schools and colleges, which targets the overall development and wellbeing of our students.

Let us provide a slot in our academic curriculum that is exclusively dedicated for a one-to-one interaction between students and teachers. If we can develop that level of confidence in teacher-student relationship, the need for counselling centres will be only for extreme cases.

But this doesn’t mean the entire responsibility lies with the teachers. Parents have an equally important role to play, too. Instead of adorning the role of the all-provider who ensures the child has everything, it would be better if the parent can build inner resources within the children, so that they can cope during tough times. More than presents, parents need to give their kids the gift of presence.

Whenever a parent feels something is not right with the child, one needs to start spending more time with him/her. Taking the child for a stroll, watching his/her favourite movie together or even preparing a meal together can be engaging ways to get conversations flowing.

It would be wise not to step in as the instant problem-solver. Instead, gradually usher in the confidence in the child of solving the problem on their own. Let the problem not get more attention than the child, but it is also important not to be overprotective.

Develop an environment for open communication at home; help children reframe stressful situations and let them learn to unwind and relax, too.

Unrealistic ambitions can hamper one’s confidence levels. Therefore, it is the obligation of both teachers and parents not to lay undue expectations on a child and render encouragement even if their performance is disappointing. After all, marks and grades aren’t the end of the world. Given the right support, children can achieve a lot more than just good grades.

(The author is founder, Deeksha, Bengaluru)

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