DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS STORY
In my first time I have been assigned the 1st class in the primary school, I was really stressed by the fact that I had to work with young children coming from different families and backgrounds. Especially nowadays, where a lot of parents decided to move their children from the private schools to the public schools, due to the economical crisis.
Actually, children finish their kindergarten in private schools and then they move to the closest primary school. In my first period as a teacher in a primary school, I was assigned a class in the city centre. The city centre has people coming from old fashioned, traditional Greek families, that always try to demonstrate how much attention they have been given to their small princess and princes so that they can become “the best student in the classroom”.
This is normally the case, as I was told by the more experienced teachers in school and this made the school one of the most famous in the city. This was the case till last year.
Students in public schools are distributed based on the address of the their homes, in order to reduce the physical distance from homes to school and the traffic in the roads in the morning and after the school ends.
Economical crisis has a lot of victims. So, even in the city center, not everybody could afford to get their children in private kindergarten. Despite the fact that also public kindergarten do a perfect job, strikes and reductions in staff, do make the public less competitive to the private ones. Private kindergartens are competing in providing more extended education in order to get more children there. So you can find children knowing how to spell their names, count (in Greek and in English) or even read small phrases. But what about the rest of the children?
During my that first period last year the classroom had the normal synthesis; children coming from private schools. Except one; Nicolas. Nicolas was a blonde child coming from a well-known family (his father owns the closest pharmacy in the neighborhood). I assumed that he followed the same path as his friends…a good kindergarten and then public schools.
The boy was really clever. He knew how to spell his name, but that is. Although this is normal, the other kids knew a lot more things. Spelling difficult words, count to 99 (!), even say a few words in English. During the first week, he tried to impress the teachers, as everybody has done, but he could not reach the level of the other kids. At the second week, he was just drawing figures in his notebook, refusing even to look at the board. In the third week, he was coming late at school and it was obvious that he did not want to follow the rest of the class.
I was rather inexperienced and at the first point I was really impressed by the rest of the classroom, since it was beyond my expectations.
At the forth week the boy spent 2 out of the 5 school days home. Her mother came at the end of the week and she was depressed since the boy did not want to come to school, even do his homework. She did not know why.
The other kids at the beginning of the school period where playing with their friend coming from the same school. Nicolas tried to get into some of these “parties” and he was ok. When the actual class work started, Nicolas was the one that was left behind. He had to study harder, but the rest of the children knew the things he was fighting to learn.
At the end, he could not follow his friends in the class, and he started no to play with the other kids and staying by his own.
Although the boy did not have any learning disabilities, the psychological depression made him feel like he did. Parents could not find the reason for his behavior.
I started to talk to Nicolas, during the breaks, asking about hi personal interests and the things that he liked in school. I spoke with his parents and presented the actual situation. They were really surprised.
Nicolas, although was feeling better, his self-esteem was down and he still did not ant to follow the rest of the class. I decide to make something, that might not be so pedagological correct, but it seems a good idea.
In the middle of each week, all the students were assigned the same list of home work that they were supposed to deliver on the following Monday. Nicolas was assigned the same homework as the rest of the kids, plus one small exercises that the others did not. His parents were informed that they should help him in all of his homework and especially the non common one. At the end of the second week , all kids had delivered the same homework, except Nicolas that had two more. During a Tuesday, I assigned a teamwork that was too similar to the first non-common homework of the class. Nicolas managed to help his team finish first. It was a surprise for the rest of the class, and the whole class acknowledged Nicolas performance. The same situation happened the next Tuesday. Nicolas was feeling great and the rest of the class was really happy because Nicolas was part of the team. I did the same trick once more, but the problem seemed to disappear.
Nicolas was participating in the class and he was willing to do more homework in order to get back to the class as equal to the others. Nicolas finished the 1st class among the 10% of the students, based on his performance at the end of semester.
Despite the fact that I did something political incorrect, the final outcome was quite successful. I think that I realized the problem early. Actually, I think that I realized the source of the problem and tried to have an immediate reaction. There might be a lot of different solutions. For example, I could try to move Nicolas to a new less privileged environment. Based on the common practice it could help, or it could extend Nicolas isolation at a social level and then at the educational level.
Parents thought that my actions were great. They realized that the teacher was part of the family problem and he was working for the solution. The solution was a simple action, that generated results in two weeks. Quite early enough, so that Nicolas could stay in school, try to catch up the rest of the class and be productive again.
A physiologist could help in the situation, but it was nice that she could not interfere. Since Nicolas family was well known, it could produce side effects in the solution of the problem, since I could not predict the reaction from the other families.