Internal and external challenges

Challenging Situations.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
Any teacher comes up against unusual, challenging and threatening situations. I tried to classify them in my mind in the simplest way, into what may be called internal and external ones. The former are most often connected to several factors.

* Learning disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia or simple slowness. When a child cannot read for instance, we may suspect dyslexia and either read up on the subject or consult specialists to get a better diagnosis. When they cannot spell and write "as they hear", again we may try to find specific exercises or refer them to a specialist. A slow child may eventually catch up with their peers or not; all we can do is help them by devising individual exercises and hope for the best. Any of these problems are within the scope of education.

* A child or a family member may contract a disease or sustain a trauma. Parents may get divorced; there may be a death in the family. Change of school, a new teacher, a new town may also contribute to the upswing or downswing of grades. In such a case, forewarned is forearmed. Once we learn of the origins of a problem we can deal with it.

* Modern statistics tell us that at least 15% of children especially adolescents have some psychological and psychiatric issues. How do we deal with that? No pedagogical institution can teach us that. I once came into a classroom during the break to ask the teacher a question and saw the following tableau. All the kids looked petrified. The teacher stood by her table frozen. And the biggest boy in class was kicking furiously at something I couldn't see. It turned out to be his classmate. I managed to break this one-sided fight. Later the ER told us that another blow would have killed the child who was on the floor unconscious. His assailant was taken away for a psychiatric evaluation. Some teachers said at a hearing that he seemed "odd", but nothing prepared us for the outburst.

* External factors are the ones we have no control about. I would expect most children in various European countries to develop a higher anxiety level than ever before. How do we explain that some people kill others not in a war but just because they are different?

* All teachers today need special safety instructions and training. 
I know I can teach anybody English. If I explain a topic and get lower results than expected during a test, I can find a way to explain it again and help my students of any age and level understand it. Explaining the various ways of life, the customs and traditions of any country to newcomers is much more difficult. 

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