Let us be perfectly clear; difficult children are a serious challenge for hard working teachers, who tend to be undervalued by our society. When creative, flexible and curious teachers, using patient, consistent, tough love approaches, ‘hang in’ with our difficult children for the long term, we often see very positive outcomes. Such schools and teachers become our best asset when guiding these children.
From the very beginning my time at school was troubled. I struggled through to Year 11 in high school when our geography teacher gave us an assignment to do over the school holidays. ‘Take an area and study the land use of that area’ was what I understood the verbal instruction to be. Of course in my grandiose, hyperactive way of thinking I wanted to choose an exciting out of the way place so I choose the Great Wall of China! I read everything I could about this ‘area’ and how it was used. I had a family member who was a geography teacher and I spent a long time asking questions and getting help on this project. I illustrated my thesis and wrote pages about the Great Wall, much of which I still remember today. On my return to school the teacher laughed out loud at my effort and said “All I wanted you to do was a local park or some such place. Why can’t you follow instructions? He promptly failed my assignment. I walked out of the classroom, left the school and never returned. I was not able to face the shame of what was perceived as continual failure. That day changed the whole direction of my life.
For many adults with childhood learning and behaviour problems, the painful memories of that early struggle and the responses of the adults linger on. It is common to remember that there were a number of teachers who had no difficulty helping develop socially appropriate behaviour. Inevitably, these were teachers who had a clear sense of their own identity, recognised their limits and were tough but fair.
Teachers who are Story Literate develop educational processes that enhance the process of literacy, both social and educational. These teachers work from an understanding of the learner’s experience; consequently, they teach from a position of Educational Literacy . Teachers who have difficulty with Story Literacy, lack empathy and read the stories of children from their own perspective; consequently, they work from a position of Educational Narcissism . Narcissism refers to that process where people become absorbed in their own perfection.
Such people only see the world from their own perspective and become genuinely confused when others don’t agree with them. The risk for all adults, when it comes to teaching and raising children, is to become deluded into the belief that the way adults interpret events is the best way for children to see those events, thus leading to a discounting of the perceptions of children.