Fifth-grader Yitzi cannot speak in front of the classroom. In fact, it is a wrestling act just to get him into the classroom to begin with. He refuses to get together with friends after school and spends much of his time at home alone in his bedroom. When his parents try to speak with him to try to figure out what is wrong, he cannot answer. Instead, he turns red and starts to sweat.
If you or your child suffers from panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, unrelenting worries or incapacitating phobias, you or your child may have an anxiety disorder – which does not mean that you have to live with anxiety and fear.
“Your job is to give information,” I said, “but there are a lot of reasons why children don’t pay attention. It isn’t always about whether they ‘want’ to. Maybe they are afraid of failure, maybe they have learning disorders. As a teacher, you can motivate and inspire them to achieve.”
Picture this: A child is jumping around the room, arms flailing, and interrupting the teacher. Was the child you pictured male or female? Chances are, you imagined a boy.
We all know that kids love tattling on one another, letting you know when a sibling or classmate did something wrong. While this type of peer pressure can discourage children from misbehaving, it also creates a negative environment in the classroom and home. Children often feel like their siblings or classmates are “out to get” them.
“Mrs. Schapiro. Hi, this is Mrs. Rosenfeld from XYZ Yeshiva. I am calling you because I noticed that your son’s birthday is September 28. We have recently pushed the cutoff date at our school from January 1 to September 1. Because of that, I am afraid Yaacov won’t be able to apply to kindergarten until next year.”
Gershon got up from the chessboard and walked away slowly, pouting as he headed to the bathroom. His father watched him go and once again wondered if he had made a mistake in playing competitively against his son. Gershon hated to lose, but how could he improve if his father always let him win?
Your son has a big vocabulary test this morning. He’s really anxious and studied with you last night for over an hour. Now, at breakfast, he is talking about how nervous he feels and how he hopes he doesn’t fail. You are trying to think about what is best for him. He has ten minutes before he needs to leave for school. Should you go over the words with him one last time? Should you encourage him to take deep breaths and realize that he knows the material? Or, should you get him to take a run around the living room, ending with jumping jacks and push-ups in the kitchen?
Your mother just knitted a beautiful pink hat for your seven-year-old daughter. The hat, unfortunately, is also extremely itchy. To be honest, you wouldn’t even want to wear it yourself. But you tell your daughter, “Say thank you. Tell your grandmother how much you like the hat.”
The captain teaches a form of Krav Maga that is very simple, effective and easy to remember. The end result is that he creates a very steep learning curve with many students feeling more confident. Many are able to fend off a bully after only one lesson.
I was recently approached by a mother whose daughter had been diagnosed by an audiologist, two years before with auditory processing disorder (APD). Her daughter, let’s call her Basya, had been making progress in her academic environment. Her grades had been rising and her teachers had noticed a significant improvement in her listening skills.
Dena was the star of her nursery class. All the kids loved her and the teachers gushed to her mother, “Dena is so kind. She shares with everyone and is so inclusive. When we have circle time, she sits attentively and she is always ready with a detailed and fun answer.”
In her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain relays the story of Rosa Park and the Montgomery Bus Strike during the Civil Rights Movement.
In American culture, there is a large emphasis put on optimism. We are told that we need to think positively and that things will work out. For a lot of people, this type of outlook is beneficial and healthy. However, optimism is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Positive thinking works for some, but not for all. For people who have anxiety, optimism can be very difficult and unproductive. Instead, anxious people can harness that anxiety and use it in order to ensure that they do succeed.
When interviewed about the subject, Carrie Goldman, the author of the book, Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear, explains that bullying comes about pretty equally between the genders, but it happens in different ways.
Karen’s fourth child, a daughter named Abbie, was bright and highly verbal. Abbie learned phonics and loved drawing. But, even at eight or nine years old, Abbie could barely make it through an easy reader. Her mother was at a loss. She had taken her to three different doctors to check her vision.
“I could never let someone else raise my children. I don’t think I would have had kids if I had to work.” “I would go crazy if I had to spend all day with my kids. I don’t know how you do it.” “I wish I could eat like you, Mindy. But, I just can’t.” “If you made more time for exercise, you’d be happier with yourself. I’m just trying to help.” “I wish I didn’t care about what I wore all the time, just like you. I always feel like I have to put on make up.” “If only I had your time in the morning to get dressed.”
As children grow, the things that they scare them change, but most children regardless of their age, have rational fears that can be addressed. Just think about yourself – there are things that you still fear even though you are an adult. Of course, there is a difference between rational and irrational fears. So, what fears should you expect from diverse age groups?
My approach to teaching is to take a “discussion-based constructivist approach” to learning, encouraging children to arrive at their own understanding of Torah through text-based study and a great deal of discussion. I constantly encourage them to think, ask questions and to arrive at their own insights into the Torah.
For many children, going to school involves spending their mornings and afternoons traveling to their destination amid classmates and chatter on a large yellow bus. But for a growing number of children all around the world, the process of getting an education may involve no commuting at all.