Helping students in urgent situations
How can teachers respond when students have serious problems?
If students find it difficult to ask questions in an English class, what chance is there of a student asking for help with a more serious problem? Recently, over the school holiday, I have wondered what teachers can do to help in more serious situations.
When two students had recent problems at home, which resulted in them being absent for a considerable time, I asked the class if they knew what was wrong. After receiving a reluctant response, I left messages with their friends in hopes that they would contact me.
Eventually, both students met with me to discuss their absences. Without going into too much detail, they had serious family problems that prevented them from attending my classes. This was not difficult for me to deal with, but it did make me think how other teachers recognize and react to the students' problems.
Being proactive and aware of students' problems
When a student has a period of absence, more than likely they will return to the class as if nothing has happened. A prolonged period of absence needs to be followed up; though with ever increasing workloads it is becoming more difficult to allot time for management problems that occur outside the classroom.
Unfortunately, it is normal for teachers to wait for something to go wrong before acting. This avoidance can lead to dangerous consequences, so it is better to nip the problem in the bud by being proactive rather than reactive.
The final outcome for both of my students was that they were able to successfully complete their studies because I was flexible with their deadlines and offered support to help them during their family emergencies. The university does have a support program; however, they aren't always aware that a problem exists. When students are reluctant to ask for help, a concerned teacher must often make the first approach.
Responding to emergencies
In the four and a half years I have been teaching at the Language Center Udon Thani Rajabhat University, I have had to administer first aid on three occasions. I find this rather concerning as nobody on the scene had an idea of how to respond to an emergency situation.
Nearly all schools have a medical facility although some treatment may require transportation to areas further away. The protocol for responding to emergency situations is often unclear. The duty and responsibility may fall on teachers to take control of the situation and act?
In my opinion, I would like to suggest that there be training made available to those teachers who are interested, paid for by the government, so that schools are adequately prepared for emergency medical response. This should include basic First Aid training, so when an emergency does arise, teachers know what to do.
In addition, teachers' pre-service training could include counseling skills to help them be more proactive when dealing with student problems. Stopping a potential disaster before too much damage is done is far better than complaining about it afterwards.
Steve Graham is an English language teacher at the Language Center, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. If there are any comments or areas for debate that you would like to discuss, you can contact Steve at: email@example.com .
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Last modified: November 16, 2007