Stormy onset of the spring


Dr. Upendra Kaushik
Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s V.M.Public School, Vadodara

Uninterested faces, weird hairdos, argumentative behaviour, boisterous students; welcome to a typical IX or X class. Yes, such are the expressions we often notice on the faces of these students. Well, that shy and chubby middle scholar is an adolescent now and showing new traits typical of him. Here’s how to tackle these young minds.

Literally speaking, adolescence is the period of human development during which a young person must move from dependency to independence, autonomy and maturity. The young person moves from being part of a family group to being part of a peer group and to standing alone as an adult. (Mabey and Sorensen, 1995). In order to help this transition effectively and identify our role as a teacher; we need to understand their nature, the physical and most importantly the effect of these changes on his/her behaviour.

I presume the most important change that you feel might be that once a shy and obedient student has suddenly become rebellious, argumentative, defying almost everything whatever you say and at constant odds with you. At this stage, prefer democratic discipline rather than being an authorative teacher. Having open discussions and maintaining a sense of trust will help him/her confide in you. Punishment, if necessary, should never be corporal but in a manner which does not shatter his/her ego.

Eating disorders…

If you notice that the child is withdrawing from social activities, shying away from peers, hardly ever touches his tiffin and has become depressed, lethargic and feel cold a lot then warning bells must start ringing as all these are signs of a glamorous disorder for today’s teens, psychologists term it as eating disorder. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa cause dramatic weight fluctuation, interfere with normal daily life, and damage vital body functions. Generally, eating disorders involve self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about body weight and food, and eating habits that disrupt normal body function and daily activities.

People with anorexia have an extreme fear of weight gain and a distorted view of their body size and shape. As a result, they can’t maintain a normal body weight. Some restrict their food intake by dieting, fasting or excessive exercise. They hardly eat at all, and the small amount of food they do eat becomes an obsession. Bulimia is characterized by habitual binge eating and purging. Someone with bulimia may undergo weight fluctuations, but rarely experiences the low weight associated with anorexia. Both disorders tend to involve compulsive exercise.

You as a teacher should immediately contact the school counsellor or have a calm discussion with the parents underlying the gravity of the problem. In class, approach him/her in a loving, supportive, and non-threatening way. Try to bring up your concerns when your child feels comfortable and relaxed, and there are no distractions. Use “I” statements, rather than “you” statements. For example, steer clear of statements like “you have an eating disorder” or “you’re obsessed with food,” which may only prompt anger and denial. Instead, try “I imagine that it’s very stressful to count calories of everything you eat” or “I’m worried that you have lost so much weight so quickly.” Educate parents to take an active role in creating a healthy lifestyle for their family. Convince them to consult a doctor or mental health care professional.

Stealing problem

With growing demands of teens and luxurious, problem free life led by them, thanks to modern parenting, a new behaviour change is knocking the doors of adolescents too; stealing. Shocked? Don’t be. Stealing once a playful innocence of pre-school kids is taking giant strides in teens too. Preteens and teens know they’re not supposed to steal, but might steal for the thrill of it or because their friends do. Some might believe they can get away with it. As they’re given more control over their lives, some teens steal as a way of rebelling. Other complex reasons can be factors too; they might be angry or want attention, their behaviour may reflect stress at home, school, or with friends. Some may steal as a cry for help because of emotional or physical abuse they’re enduring. In other cases, teens steal because they can’t afford to pay for what they need or want – for example, they may steal to get popular branded items or to support drug habits.

You can organise various brain storming sessions, role plays etc. to help teens understand why stealing is wrong and that they may face serious consequences if they continue to steal. Inform the authorities and proceed for remediation in a subtle but firm manner. Parents may take some time to sink in this information, but then won’t they? Help them understand and unravel the mysteries, encourage them to join the missing links and provide a loving atmosphere at home. Gently request them not to discuss this matter further with the child or in front of anyone, be it siblings. In classroom to prevent yourself from showering excessive concern on the child, as too much attention can lead the ship to a wrong harbour.

If a student seems stuck in a pattern that includes some of these statements I don’t know why I bother, what’s the point of anything, I wish I were dead or even I can’t do anything right, I’m worthless; then it is quite evident that he/she is passing through phases of depression. According to SGRMH (1999), “One in five children has a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioural disorder. And up to one in 10 may suffer from a serious emotional disturbance, Seventy percent of children, however, do not receive mental health services.” They may feel low most of the time, lose interest in all activities of school and have frustration level. In such cases, request the school counsellor to fix up an appointment with the child. Talk to the child on regular occasions to show that he/she is being recognized and does not seek deep into dearth’s of depression.

Substance abuse…

Moving on to yet another important behaviour change in adolescents or rather calling it a habit would be more appropriate. Yes, I am talking about substance abuse. If you notice a change in your student’s normal activities or behaviour, and you cannot explain it as due to the typical issues of adolescence, it may be a sign of alcohol or substance abuse. Pay attention to changes in child’s appearance, friends and peer group, way of expressing him or herself, school performance, extracurricular activities or hobbies, and overall behaviour. If your teen now refuses to do chores, misses deadlines for submissions regularly, is hostile and aggressive, and frequently appears to be depressed, agitated, or “sleepy,” you should call the parents and take immediate measures.

Yoga can help…

Regarding above, if an individual takes the help of yoga,it can be very useful to him/her. Yoga makes the body of an individual steady, flexible and strong, increases endurance, provides energy, gives a feel good factor, enhances muscle strength, improves confidence, protects from injury, reduces weight, balances metabolism, controls thoughts, facilitates calmness, helps in getting better sleep, controls emotions, leads to a deeper sense of gratitude in general, fosters the ability to truly live the positive experiences of daily life, leads an individual to introspection about his/her limitations – physically, mentally and emotionally and manifests positive experiences in the daily life.

Asana like Hastottanasana, Padahastasna, Trikonasna, Shashankasna, Ushtrasana, Ardhamatsyendrasna, Bhujangasna, Makarasna, Sarvangasna, Matsyasna, Shavasna, Shirshasna, Bakasna, Hansasna (for girls) and Mayurasna (for boys) can be very useful to an individual.

Finally, remember as kids progress through the teen years, you’ll notice a showing of the highs and lows of adolescence. And, eventually, they’ll become independent, responsible, communicative young adults. So remember the motto with teens: We’re going through this together. And we’ll come out of it together! Good luck and Happy teaching’!!!

Dr Upendra KaushikDr Upendra Kaushik, B Com (Hons), M Com, B Ed, Ph D, D Litt is in school education and administration since 1978. He is a well known educationist, consultant, mentor, trainer, motivator and institution strategist. He has authored 19 books and has rich experience in the field of Curriculum Development, Measurement and Evaluation, Development of Text Books and Instructional Materials. He has been a resource person for training programmes on Value Education, Consumer Education, Population and Development Education, General Management, Marketing Management, Capacity Building for Skill-Upgradation, and associated with CBSE, NIOS,CIE University of Delhi, etc. Since 1990, he has trained more than 2,000 entrepreneurs. He is the recipient of more than 65 accolades at the State, National and International level including ‘National Award to Teachers 2001’ instituted by Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, ‘State Teacher’s Award 2002’ instituted by the Government of NCT, Delhi.
At present, Dr Upendra Kaushik is Chairman, Governing Body, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Vallabhram Mehta Public School, Vadodara; Member Governing Councils and Management Committees of a number of well-known schools of the country.