Children Are Different


I was having a very interesting conversation last night with a friend about education, and among the things we discussed was the failure of educators to see past “misbehavior” in children for their true potential.  Too often, a student is labeled as a “behavior problem” or an “underachiever” or “average” and then treated as such for their entire school career.  And usually, that student will live up to his or her label.

What bothers me about this so much is that it’s not a failure in the child; it’s a failure in the teachers and educators that are stuck on old ways.  That don’t understand children in any significant way, don’t understand the biological differences between boys and girls (the subject of a very interesting article in this week’s NYT Magazine) and they don’t understand that often the “misbehavior” is not the result of a bad child, but rather of a poorly challenged or poorly motivated child.  Sometimes you’ll have parents who will defend the child (like my mother who always told teachers at parent-teacher conferences that I was acting out and calling out in class because I was bored) and won’t allow an incorrect label to follow them.  But very often, the parents either don’t know that the child has been labeled, or don’t know enough to dispute it.  Many parents aren’t equipped to be child psychologists or educators, and this isn’t their fault.  It’s not bad parenting, it’s why you send your kids to school to begin with, because you expect that those who are qualified to educators and child psychologists will be there to educate them.  It’s a major problem in the education system, that many teachers are unwilling or unable to see each child as an individual, and eduate that child to his specific needs.  I’ve said it before: chanoch lana’ar al pi darko.  A child can only learn if he is taught in the way that suits him.  There is no one method that works for all students, and forcing rigidity on children only harms them, while forcing an artificial distinction between students as able and unable, which is based not on true ability and potential, but rather suitability to the chosen method.  That’s not fair to the children with true ability and potential that are stifled by the method, and who get stuck with a label that follows them around, and often contricts them and their ability to succeed.

Anyway, all that tangent was really an intro to this.  Children aren’t just different from each other, they are different from adults as well, and what works for adults, doesn’t work for children.  So adults that try to teach without realizing that what they can do, and the way they process information is different than what their students can do, will fail at reaching the students.  How many teachers try to reach students on the students’ level? (Not many that I had).  This is biological and physiological.  Children see, hear and sleep differently.  So much so, that while you may jump out of bed when you hear the fire alarm, children can sleep right through it.

Please, I beg of you, if you have kids or are ever planning to have kids, watch this video (if the link doesn’t work, click here, and then click on “video”).  This is important for every parent.


3 responses to “Children Are Different

  1. Commenting solely on the introduction (which isn’t really your point but anyways):

    As a parent and as the husband of an educator, I have the unique ability to see this issue from both sides of the coin. And let me start by saying the following: I think the current educational system (both interms of curriculum as well as method/psychological aspect) is comlpetely in the crapper and needs to be overhauled. No dispute there.

    HOWEVER, one thing I see from my wife’s stories (and my own 2 eyes) is that, more often than not, parents are incapable of seeing any faults in their kids. They don’t recognize the difference between a normal wild 7 year old boy and the Devil. They can’t hear that annoying lisp, don’t see the turning of the eye or foot, that is as plain as day to everyone else. Simply put, their children are perfect.

    I see this with parents and my wife sees it with her students’ parents. ALWAYS the school is to blame. Always it’s the fault of a crappy teacher or inattentive principal. Guess what people, your children CAN be monsters too.

    And it is my personal experience that children learn who to be and how to behave, more from their parents than from the school system.

    People need to invest time – time to see their kids aren’t perfect and time to make them better – instead of absentee parents and them blaming the school when their kids end up all effed up.

  2. Elster –

    You are absolutely right, it is very difficult for parents to recognize the faults in their own children.

    But I’m not just speaking about elementary education, I’m speaking about even up and through high school. High School boys have a very different learning ability than any other group, including high school girls, adults, or elementary school children.

    Some of the points in the Times maagazine article highlight that (in terms of the biological differences).

    I don’t mean to paint all teachers with the same brush of being non-caring and disinterested. It is very difficult to teach 26 different children each in an individual way, and be attentive to the needs of all of them. And you are certainly right that parents need to get invovled, and pay attention to what they think is going on with their children. And try as hard as possible to be objective about it.

    But I think the majority of teachers (at least the ones that I had) were simply unskilled and unknowledgeable in the ability to see past certain cliches and into the true potential of the child. That’s what I think is the tragedy.

    For instance, how many boys were unable (not by choice) to sit still in class and pay attention (which the teacher demanded) and were considered behavior problems and not worth the time, until people finally started realizing that ADD/ADHD is a real thing, and can be treated medically?

    Now that ADD/ADHD are so common a diagnosis, how many young boys are just assumed/misdiagnosed to have it, and put on stimulants, when its extremely possible there are other things causing the problems, for instance, sleep apnea, or maybe some other emotional issues that are being ignored?

  3. MMMMM Ritalin

    No, you are correct – there’s a fine balance between “trouble” and “just a bit wild” and, sadly many teachers don’t quite get that. some have been around too long and are simlpy burned out – no longer willing to put in the effort to see the differences.

    It’s a problem that only the school and the parets can work on together.

    I wuold argue, however, that if a kid is labelled a “problem” and the parents have no idea this is the case, then there’s a HUGe disconnect that needs to be addressed.

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