By Brahim Ait Hammou
By Brahim Ait Hammou
Morocco World News
Tinghir, Morocco, March 22, 2012
It’s so frequent to hear in educational theories and spheres “taking the learner as a whole person”. But, we rarely take this into serious consideration given the number of students we have to deal with, and given the amount of curriculum we have to cover before a standardized test arrives.
Humanistic theories advocate and recommend taking the learner as a “human being” with all his or her qualities, sufferings and life situations and conditions, while we are teaching our students in our classes.
As I have already mentioned, many stressful conditions surround teachers that they completely ignore that the learner comes into school bringing with him or her everything that he or she faces and lives outside of school.
Today, I have lived a case which really “urges” us to take the learner as a whole person before taking any decision or before even starting your “warm up”. I have been teaching a student for the last 5 months and he would more often produce meaningless sounds in class while I am explaining or dealing with my lesson. This “human” would usually laugh in cases where no one else, but him, laughed in the class. He would utter sounds that I used to consider as strange enough to be those of a “human being”. I asked many of his other teachers, and they all said that he behaves exactly the same way in other subjects which dismissed the fact that he had a problem with English as a subject or with me as an English teacher. It was really one of the mysteries I have lived during the last ten years of my teaching.
Taking learners as human beings is a fact that must be taken seriously if we really want our teaching and schools to build full people and citizens. I have learned that this poor adolescent is living in miserable social conditions. I found out today that his father is a well-known delinquent and drunkard in his neighborhood. So, all the “misbehavior” of that student is no more than a reflection of the state of instability that he’s been living. Today, I actually spoke with this poor kid in private, and I learned things that I should have understood from the beginning of the year. This student even told me that his father divorced his mother long ago, and that he lives with his grandparents, while his mother is married to another man far away from where he’s now.
These facts have given me an insight into the reason(s) behind this child’s behavior. I wouldn’t try to explain it from a psychological perspective -a job I am not well-equipped to deal with. I would say no more than this student needs our attention; I am now aware that what he has been doing in his different classes is merely for the sake of getting some of the attention and recognition that he is missing elsewhere – his family. It’s unfortunate, however, that many of his teachers are not aware of the situation he’s living, which still opens the door for more criticism and “irrelevant” behavior management solutions from his teachers.
I am now aware that this student and similar others misbehave with a view of obtaining some of the respect they have lost outside school. It’s so sad, though, that they continue to get disrespect both from us and from their peers, simply because we have failed to understand their life. We are really obliged to provide our learners with the self-esteem that is lost for them because of one reason or another; and to do that, there must be other parts, namely the administrative staff, which must know everything about every student’s life and provide us, teachers, with this type of information so that we act towards our kids appropriately.
It’s really so sad that the people who hold this type of information on our students continue to consider it as “secret,” and that “it might deprive the student of his self-esteem” in front of teachers and peers. It’s high time that our schools had centers that “really listen to the student,” and know everything about his or her life. This invaluable information that would have saved me and the poor child a lot of trouble and misunderstanding!
I am now aware that no student can learn – or try to learn – while he or she misses other valuable parts of his or her life. Self-esteem, recognition and self-respect are essential before learning.
To sum up, we, as teachers, have to be tolerant and very slow while responding or interpreting our students’ [mis]behavior. We should know that many things happen in our students’ lives outside and inside school, and they all affect the way these students behave, react and learn in our classes. I now acknowledge that there are other things that are more important than the lesson plan and the use of a multi-media channel!
I am now aware that so many of the ways I tried to react to that particular student’s misbehavior were inappropriate and totally missing the point. Because I have talked to him today and because he feels that I am no longer a grammar and language teacher, I am sure he will modify his behavior. He simply knows that I am caring for him, and that’s what he needs.
A teacher of English as a Foreign Language, Brahim Ait Hammou, has been teaching for ten years. He is interested in social media ,blogging and the use of ICT in education. He is is also interested in using projects in language learning.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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