Canada has been in the news a lot this week. Not only has there been an outpouring of support for those citizens affected by the massive forest fires in Fort McMurray, but also, Prince Harry was in Toronto promoting the Invictus games with our Prime Minister.
There has been a lot of cute smack talk between the three parties involved in the games, including the Obama’s and Prince Harry, and even PM Trudeau. But on the flip side of this, there is also the question that I get as an educator regarding the (very handsome) rebellious Prince. It usually falls alone the lines of “how on earth would you even handle a student like that in your class?!?!”
The first time I encountered it was the summer of 2012 before I started teacher’s college. I had booked a tour through Scotland a few weeks after the Olympics ended. This was the week where a nude picture of Prince Harry was in the papers.
The people on the bus were highly amused by this and it was a topic of conversation for the majority of the trip since I was just entering into teaching and another young female on the trip was just finishing up a master’s program to teach special education.
I think that people look at having that “problem child” (is there a better term to use? My mind is blank!) in their class as a bad thing. Yes it is a challenge, but I see it as the most rewarding of students. What people usually assume is that Prince Harry was a bad student just because he went a little wild in his teens and early 20’s (but really, don’t we all? My personal favourite was dancing on stage at a night club with drag queens…..but let’s just forget I ever mentioned that shall we?)
A child who experiences loss so young is going to need to process those emotions. Personally I have had to deal with two such children in my professional career, both who acted totally differently.
The first was a 5 year old who had lost a baby cousin. His family (mom/dad/him) lived in the same house with his cousin (cousin/her boyfriend/3 other children). The baby was around 3 months old when she died and in class C just wanted cuddles all the time. Sitting on your lap, holding your hands, and then he started to act out. He would hit others for no reason and then burst into tears.
The other was a girl who had to deal with her mom and two sisters getting into a car accident one winter. The middle sister was in a coma for 3 months. A took it as a chance to get as much attention as possible. Talking about it all the time, always bringing the conversation around to her family.
But then there are students who deal with divorce, custody battles, lack of attention from parents, borderline neglect, or maybe a physical/developmental limitation. They can become withdrawn or overly social, act out physically or emotionally, become defiant or lethargic etc.
I think these are all normal responses to this kind of stress in their young lives. But I also think that its unfair to the child to just assume that they are a horrible part of your day to have to incorporate their emotions into your teaching. I kind of take offence when people assume that I wouldn’t want to teach these students, like it is an inconvenience to have them in my class.
Yes it is an added challenge to teach them, but no more than if I had to tailor my lesson plans for a student with Downs Syndrome or who was on the autism spectrum. I gladly change my lessons for these students to include them in as much of the regular classwork as possible for them. I wouldn’t think twice about modifying a worksheet or assignment. It’s part of my job as an educator.
Think of how much easier it is to show a little extra affection to a child who is struggling with their emotions? How much easier is it to have an extra “hey how are you doing today?” To be a constant unchanging source of support and stability for a child?
In all the instances that I have encountered, just showing a little more interest in the student has been enough to sometimes calm the impending storm – even as a supply teacher. I also think that it might be a reason why I was invited back to these classes on a regular basis. I wasn’t afraid of the outbursts or the tantrums. I was ok with just letting M sit at his desk if he was too wound up to join the rest of the class. But I was also firm in my decisions as an educator. If i said S had 5 minutes of computer time left, I meant it. Not 6 more minutes, 5.
Now even if I was old enough to be a teacher, I would have never taught Harry after the death of his mother, since I am a primary teacher and prefer to keep to early primary as much as possible (he was like 11 right? Just at the higher end of primary) But whenever someone tells me they “wouldn’t want to deal with that” I literally want to throw something at them – preferably something ice cold and sticky, in the middle of summer, close to a swarm of bugs….