Rising from the abyss

Gita Nambiar

It is difficult to envisage the depths to which a child can fall, in terms of self-esteem. Particularly when he is at the threshold of encountering the first of many stepping stones in his educational journey, namely the class X board exams. It is indeed a stressful time for all students, more so for those with a background of inherent difficulties with learning and attention. When the pressure to perform starts closing in from all directions, the child sinks deeper into the quagmire of depression.

We can detect the telltale signs – isolating behaviours, not wanting to see or meet anyone, not going outside the house, preferring to play on the computer rather than with friends, negative thoughts about self and others, feeling ashamed about one’s appearance – are some of them. The impression that, “I am no good at studies, I cannot remember anything I studied”.

Illustration: Sunil Chawdiker

One such victim of these circumstances even said, “My school treats me like a terrorist”. He was deeply pained by the attitude of his teachers who spoke extremely rudely and demotivated the child, telling him that he would never pass, would bring disgrace to his parents and would never do well in life. Adding fuel to the fire were his classmates, who shunned him and offered no assistance when he asked for it.

The onus of dealing with these psychological problems falls on the hapless parents. They have to resort to counselling the child themselves or seek professional help. It is a trying time for the parents, who have to ensure that they are putting just the right quantum of pressure on the child. Excessive pressure can be detrimental to the psyche of the child, whereas letting him do what he wants may not bring forth the marks that are so crucial for his future.

It is a time when teachers should be aware of and acknowledge the fact that not every student in her class is going to get straight As. It is not the time to proclaim the inadequacies of children whose performance has been below average, thus lowering their confidence and self-esteem even more. The need of the hour is for teachers to be more sensitive to the difficulties faced by such children. The latter may not have understood the lessons and may not have summoned up the courage to ask the teacher for clarifications. The other factor could be that the strategies they adopted for studying were not effective enough.

It is understandable that the teachers themselves are under pressure from the management to produce 100 per cent results. However, demeaning the poor performers and favouring the class toppers is not the way to achieve this. Of course, schools do conduct remedial classes to help the weaker students. At the same time, the attitude of the teachers towards these children needs to undergo a radical change.

Many of these children have pulled along from one class to the next, scoring average marks. However, after coming to class X, they find the syllabus overwhelming and lose their confidence about being able to handle it. It is at the beginning of this grade that teachers should prime their students about the importance of understanding their lessons and consistently revising them. It will not take them much time to identify the laggers in the class and these should be handled with greater sympathy and forbearance.

Other than academic assistance, teachers can also counsel these children on the importance of goal-setting, time management, planning their activities and learning from past mistakes, rather than indulging in self-criticism. Schools can arrange for counsellors to interact with children preparing for the board exams. Counselling for parents would also alleviate some of the tension that they are undergoing.

A unified effort by the school management, teachers and parents would ensure that all the children appearing for their boards are well prepared, both academically and psychologically and can take on the future as balanced individuals.

The author has done her masters in psychology and freelances as a Special Educator, working on enhancing the literacy and numeracy skills of children with special needs. She can be reached at gitanambiar2010@gmail.com.

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