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Ways Teachers Can Help Troubled Kids
Our world right now is quite troubled. The economic outlook is unsettling. Many people are losing their jobs and homes, and some of them are our students’ parents. Our military is fighting dangerous and complicated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All this is occurring in addition to the ordinary struggles we all face on a day-to-day basis. It is unrealistic to think that these occurrences do not affect our students and cause them stress and worry. But how do we recognize troubled kids and what do we do about them?
It's a complex issue. On one hand, you do not want to make a big worry bigger by bringing it up in class. School might just be the one place where students can let go of their worries, since they have something else on which to concentrate. On the other hand, students could be so worried that they cannot concentrate on their work and may need an adult to help them deal with their concerns. So what can you do?
Know Your Students
I think the answer to recognizing your students' worries and concerns lies with knowing your students and using the resources you have available. If you see a student that seems distracted and whose grades are falling, there is nothing wrong with asking how they are doing. Depending on their answer, you may want to refer that student to a guidance counselor. You could also call home and express your concerns to their parents.
Plan A Lesson
If you notice that the class as a whole seems distracted, or you hear murmurings of a particular concern, you could plan a lesson around the subject of that concern. For example, maybe students have heard their parents talking about how much money they’ve lost in their retirement accounts and college savings funds. Since students have no control over this and probably not much understanding of it, it can be very frightening. It might be a good idea to plan a lesson that explains that significance of the stock markets and how, historically, the markets have always bounced back. Many times a lack of understanding makes a frightening situation even scarier. A little knowledge can help alleviate some of the worry. A lesson can provide this without making troubled kids emotional, which can sometimes make the situation worse.
Contact Your Guidance Counselor
You may sense concern in your students that is emotional and there is no way to deal with it other that speaking of it directly. An example would be if you teach in a military school where many students’ parents are deployed. If you do not feel comfortable talking to your students about the situations they may be in, invite the guidance counselor into your room to talk. They are trained to help anxious students and may have solutions to problems you have not thought of.
Don't Ignore The Problem
I think that the worst thing we can do as teachers is to ignore our students' anxiety after we have recognized it because we have so much material to cover. If students are worried, they are probably unable to pay attention anyway, so ignoring their fears is going to make a bad situation worse. Conversely, helping them find ways to deal with their anxiety, either through education, counseling, or simple discussion, can help them heal and let you get back to the job at hand, teaching your grade and your subject.