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The topic on this week's Behind the classroom door from northern Illinois University's College of Education is the end of the school on mental health. Here's the moderator Dean Robert after top. I suppose more people think of the school as a place where the academic knowledge is acquired of children. And in a place where perhaps a child's personality and mental health can be affected adversely or positively. But the truth of the matter is the child spends more time in the school and in the presence of an adult to me respects than he does in any other situation with the exception of his home. And I think if the years go on a school may play even in a more important role in the mental health of the youngster. Then it's true of the home environment. Ken you've been working in a new program sponsored by the government. Which prepared mental health counselors elementary school counselors. What's your reaction to the impact
of the public school environment on the child. Well I guess a number of things come to mind. The kind of thing that I have to think about when I work this over in my mind is that. As we look at our society and I try to think well how. Do the people that we sort of look around and say have problems how do they reach the place where they have problems. They don't inherit this necessarily do they. No. I guess for me I sort of feel that it's a thing that they learn from their environment. And in a lot of ways they've learned a lot of this before they get to school. Oh yes I think in those five years of life in the home are probably the most important of all. And the school can't correct the mistakes that are made there. And then we don't want to negate the possibility of some inherited tendency I think that people the psychologists and psychiatrists agree that a lot of
personality and mental health problems are not inherited but they also indicate there may be a predisposition in some cases for some of the more serious conditions to develop. A letter can know what happens when the person gets into the elementary school. What Dizzee elementary guidance person provided for him. All right this is a. This question has a lot of answers when I can just answer from the way I view it. I believe that a lot of the kids that star in our schools have come through a society that has sort of stifled a lot of their growth. And by that I mean. For example. Parents who may tell a child to quit crying when the very healthiest kind of thing for that child to do would be to cry. He has a reason to cry. You'd be a real healthy outlet for him. And so I think his kids go through society beginning with their homes and then later on in the schools. They
go through a lot of kinds of situations whether they're being told one thing but maybe they feel another kind of thing. Course wouldn't you agree canon that every adult is having an impact on a child with whom he's working particularly in this close situation that prevails in the school and the elementary school kindergarten first grade second grade third grade teacher. And having a real significant impact in the elementary school counselor. Who is now coming into the scene. Has the role not of a high school counselor taking on specialized cases wouldn't you agree can that this isn't his primary role that he does a lot of the education and the orientation of the teachers so that they too can carry on in their work and in their home or wholesome relationships with children. I think this is one of the biggest parts of it. I see it as a thing that we try to help kids through various developmental kinds of difficulties that they
run into. And so I would see it I think as you're suggesting as a preventative kind of emphasis with some room for remediation. It can i would appear to me then that the role of the school and aiding the child with as problems would lie more with the school cooperating with the home with the parents than with the child themselves. Well that's a nice kind of cooperation to have Leo if you haven't been in so many of the situations where the child is having some difficulty. A lot of the parents are either reluctant to or aren't available for or actually threatened by. Someone coming in and sitting down with them and talking over some of the parent problems that they have with their kids. That's one aspect of the maintenance of mental health of a developing child and that we would urge we would urge parents and teachers to communicate with each other
particularly at critical times. But some of that teacher knew the child as well as the parent and so the child and the parent would come to know the child as well as a teacher because even a parent doesn't know his own child the way that child interacts with other children in the classroom and I think we parents have all been struck by this. Isn't this expecting a lot of a school counsellor though I wonder how many elementary school counselors would you have in a typical school. Is there a certain student counselor ratio that is acceptable. Well again this is just my personal opinion on it but I think that the ratio should be determined by the kinds of needs that the kids in a particular building are indicating. And there would be some schools in other words where you'd want quite a few counselors around to help when we're not seeing that the counselor is going to carry the burden I think that's one of the hazards of having a counselors a teacher might shrug his shoulders and say well this
problem is one that I'll just turn over to the counselor when the fact the matter is a teacher. Is still. Very significant at most of the Elementary and the high school level not to mention the college level and the mental health and I think that has happened at the high school level that in some cases a high school teacher is felt. Well we have a counselor or counselors available and therefore the counselor should handle this problem rather than I. And yet the classroom teacher may know the individual much better than a counselor especially in a large school where the counselor works with many students. But in the elementary sense the elementary field of counseling guidance would be considered new. I wonder how you have any evidence can in terms of how do teachers respond to counselors. While the response has been to pretty gratifying in all the places I've seen it I think naturally the teachers wonder who the
concert is when he first comes into the building. And I think the cancer's realize that there is a little bit of concern about what this other person has. But when when you're a full time person in a building they come to know you and respect you as a person that is assisting them. And so like Bob was saying a while ago. Yes the school counselor must do more than just counsel with children. Much of his time will be involved with what I like to call collaborating with teachers working with teachers to help better understand some of the kids. I think there's a general agreement that the earlier years of life are more important. And the development of some personality habits. And those early elementary school years. Provide a spot or a great deal of corrective help can be given or preventive help established to ensure better mental health. Now it's fortunate that. The elementary school teacher tends to have a small
group of children. Hopefully a small group of children know more than we would hope 30 and even fewer than that in the primary grades and that elementary teacher comes to know these children very well and rate your comment about the secondary schools. That is very true and one of the reasons is that many a high school teacher has one hundred fifty students. He's more concerned with subject matter he has to teach his four five history classes and he can't give the time that an elementary school teacher can and should to the younger children. But the younger children need it more and then we can be more effective here and more lasting in the impact on the young child. But I'm even concerned about the mental health of college students because I'm pretty convinced that many a college student fails because of some emotional problems maybe temporary maybe just acute in passing but they need help and it's harder for a college student to get it.
Curse when it be true that most colleges would have quite a neat elaborate counseling system set up stablished Northern Illinois University for example has a counseling service available to any student so that at least the trained people are there. Here I think in elementary schools you may not have trained people available. The critical element at perhaps high school and college level is the students desire an end going to nation and motivation to go talk to the counselor. Usually the student has to be the one to initiate such a conference and the very individuals that need this kind of help are usually reluctant to seek it out. But I think teachers at all ever levels a college level in the high school level should be referring students and make make certain that they get the kind of help that they probably need.
I wonder Ken back to there in terms of the elementary guidance counselor. Is he prepared to work with mental health problems or is his preparation more in terms of being able to detect various types of mental problems mental health problems and to make a proper referral. Well again this very same institution institution. I think that the trend is more to the idea that he sits down with a teacher because I think that a good school concer realize he can't do it all by himself sits down with a teacher and using the kinds of foundations that he's developed through his programs. Works out ways to attack the different kinds of difficulties that kids are struggling with very often. Some of the problems and some of the kids in the class are having it can be a lesson to a large degree by talking with the teacher
and helping her explore in her her own mind the kinds of things that seem to work best with those kids the kinds of things that seem to bother them. And in just conversations with her not to her but with her. Very often she makes some slight changes in the way she's approaching the kids and sometimes just the slight changes at the beginning. A lot healthier kind of classroom atmosphere. It would appear to me that since the environment has so much to do with producing these children with mental health problems that the consular could benefit the child only to the extent that he could influence this environment in some way. Well then this idea could be applied to to the home or to the classroom in which the child lives. And since the teacher is the most important in the classroom in fact it will affect that environment more than anyone else. I would think that the extent to
which the concert could influence a teacher would. Have some bearing on the mental health of the child. The course is going to be a long time before we have enough elementary school counselors. To be of much significance to say it truthfully because these people are just being prepared. I still say we have to depend on the teacher largely in the parent and it would seem to me. That the critical element and maintaining sound mental health is a sensitivity of the adult to the child's reaction to his to the adult's behavior and attitude. Remarks. Treatment of the child and I think we're there for an individual adult as a parent or a teacher or a teacher at any level. You need to be sensitive to the fact that what he says or what he does or how he structures the environment has a positive or a negative effect on the mental health of that individual.
I think. We have a number of practices that are quite common in elementary schools that may create problems for children. One for example would be the practice of failing youngsters because the evidence seems to indicate that the youngster does know better the second time that he takes a grade or repeats a grade and the first time. And yet the practice of failure seems to be widespread. Well they don't do it quite as much as they used to fortunately but we used to see the big hog of a young man sitting in say the eighth green when he was 16 17 years of age and this repeated failure doesn't prevail very much. I imagine that the best time to have a child repeat a grade. In other words just grow up a little bit and become a little bit more mature. It. Is in kindergarden. And many a school district does this they make a very careful assessment of the child at the close of the kindergarten year and if he is immature and usually this is the problem
rather than a problem of lack of intelligence they have him repeat that grade. And while you're talking about unhealthy practices in the schools I can't. I refrain from mentioning what I think is one of the real significant elements in creating bad mental health. And that is greening everything marking everything. Somehow or other over the years parents and teachers alike have Can't have come to the conclusion that every single act of a child has to be evaluated and a mark put on it. And the more progressive schools start early with letters and conferences with parents and they try to tell the parent. The extent to which the child is succeeding if he's not succeeding. Try to analyze why he is not succeeding. And it might be related to a personality problem when gradually or perhaps even suddenly at the junior high school level at least they are thrown into a marking system where every paper they handy and
ask to be marked and I can't help but think what it would do to us. What if we were continued to be a mark throughout our lives and how we prepared breakfast in the morning. We drove the car to work and how we did every little bit every little task in the office. I suppose it's fine for the student who is doing well you know there would be a student probably finds some satisfaction in continuing to receive. Praise in the form of grades but unfortunately the words do it and then it's faced with failure almost every day. I think there's a tendency also for elementary teachers and secondary teachers in fact I suppose even at the college level in grading papers to tend to single out those things that are poor about a paper. The other is to write what needs to be corrected rather than what is good and I do recall reading a study indicating that in grading teams. Those
teachers who use pray is comments about what's good concerning that's paper. I had students who did much better on second themes and those who used either greed or negative comments. So I do think we have quite a bit of evidence that praise is far better than a grade or negative type of comment. Well actually I think Canton would agree with this. What we are trying to do is preserve or maintain or develop a wholesome concept in the individual a self-concept. As you know individuals attitude toward him Sow how he really values him self. And I believe that many an individual goes through life under valuing himself failing to do things failing to throw himself into his work or task because he thinks he can't do it. You lack self-confidence so to speak. Now I believe every child in school and at home and at play should have a feeling of success.
And not be faced with failure continuously. I think it may be difficult in some cases for teachers to provide success for all children. If the classroom learning situation is based upon. Cognitive type of learning in other words the writing of academic matters. However if the teacher realizes that a child can be given successful experiences or experiences with success in other areas that this is very important homework. For example I think in some schools has become so excessive that you're actually using it almost as a punitive devise. In other words a child puts in a long day in school and goes home and has to spend too many hours doing. Homework. And I think what
actually happens is the youngster who needs homework at least in other words who can profit the least from it is the one who does the homework. A very poor youngster usually doesn't do it anyway because he knows he's going to either receive a poor grade on it or not do it correctly. And I suppose that's another practice that should be looked at very carefully and what excessive homework assignments do to the development of favorable attitudes on the part of youngsters. Obviously such children aren't particularly in love with the sit down academic phase of school anyway and then they have more of it at home. Leads to another suggestion. With regard to maintaining mental health and that is that particularly young children with even older children and adults who need physical action physical activity interspersed with the sit down type of academic
endeavor. And I think in the lower grades particularly teachers sometimes forget that a child shouldn't sit still more than about 15 minutes at a time at the most. And he should have some movement taking place here because his body is and is needing exercise to develop and of course the impact on his mental health is bound to be important. This can be carried through right up to. The university student and even to the universities and faculty. Right time to think that maybe some some of us suffer quite a bit for well a PTA meeting in almost any any kind of fashion where you have to sit still too long is not good and we find our minds wandering in on the young person this is going to affect his attitude toward school. It seems to me that there are three times in a child's school life when he especially needs understanding on the part of the teacher or some other adult connected with the with a school night. I see these as being
first a time when the child leaves home and enters school I think this is a terrific creates a terrific difficulty for the child. Leaving mother and. I'm going to school and being in strange surroundings the second time I could see it would come with the onset of adolescent when the boy and girl especially needs understanding on the part of his teachers and a third I think would be the time when one child leaves home and goes away to college. He's off on his own and we can do things cooperatively to make these critical times easier. Parents can take their preschool children and choose me to school and the teachers acquaint the child with the classroom. I've seen kindergarten children who could hardly wait to go to school because they were so eager to be in that situation where they were and be associating with their peers.
I can recall a study that was made a number of years ago where they were. Discussing absent TSM on the part of. Children in the elementary and high school level they found that the greatest rate of absenteeism occurred on in the kindergarten and first grade. I wonder what accounts for that illness I suppose. Childhood illnesses certainly would be much more common at that age. But I do think it's true that the child in kindergarten and first second grade tends to enjoy school he enjoys his contact with yours and certainly looks forward to attending school. I suppose as people go on through school especially those who meet failure after failure either withdraw psychologically from the school environment or they drop out of school completely. I wonder Can one of the criticisms that has been made of counselors at the secondary level as been that
many of them are not prepared adequately to deal with personal problems that much of their preparation is in terms of dealing with academic problems. And yet no one else is available in a school to deal with these personal problems is it. Better than for a counselor to try to work with a personal problem even though he realizes the problem is over his head in terms of the type of training that counselors had. Or is he better off not to get concerned about the type of personal problems that youngsters have. Well I think he has a professional obligation not to do things that he's not able or qualified to do. I think that your question is sort of a. Two edged sword kind of thing in that yes a lot of secondary school concert is a lot of concerts
but many secondary school concerts really haven't been prepared. To really be consulars and I think that even many of the concerts that have been prepared to move into a school situation where their administration demands that they spend large amounts of time helping the seniors get into college large amounts of time helping students decide what courses to take in. Very often when you take away that kind of time you're leaving a person with no time to work with individuals. And so it seems like the school somewhere along the way is going to have to make up their mind. I think very often they're evaluating the effect and effectiveness of a con. when they really don't have a concert. Well yes given this thing is an adequate opportunity to show its value. You know I guess no person can be completely and fully adequate to all demands of his job. I'm sure teachers have some shortcomings and
counselors but the the science of preparing counselors has developed so tremendously in the last few years and school administrators have learned to use them better. Not just this test administrator. And I think we're going to make a lot of progress in this regard in the next few years. You know I've been wanting to bring up. A topic that Rea mentioned earlier and that was this relationship with peers. It's been said that a child is highly born before he starts to separate himself from his mother and to identify with his peer group and to become an independent individual and we hope adult who is self-sufficient. This is a process that begins immediately and must be encouraged. And thus when a child goes to kindergarten. Or first grade if there doesn't happen to be a kindergarten in the school district this is first contact with the large numbers of children of his own age. And this meets a very important developmental need and teachers need to
recognize this. Do. You know what teachers have been criticized for concerning themselves too much about the social development of the child and yet he must be able to be one of the group to be accepted by them and to enjoy being with them more as life is going to be pretty desolate I think. And his achievement well be hampered. You concur with that. Can I sure do. I think this goes back to where we started. Or were my thinking was when we began this idea of the kinds of feelings that kids learn about themselves and their environment and I think it leads into what you said awhile ago about developing an adequate self concept. And if kids have learned that for all kinds of reasons that there's something about them that really isn't too acceptable then they're also learning that they're not a worthy person and then they can't move into their environment and take advantage of the things that their environment has darker. And although it always seems to be a vicious cycle that always seems to become worse instead of
better unless some intelligent adult parent or teacher or counselor gets into the situation and is able to do something about it. Well we have tried to cover this very broad topic of the impact of the school on the mental health and we've hardly the child we've hardly begun to cover these things. I think we have to recognize that teachers and parents must work together in this regard. Every adult must be sensitive to the reactions of the young person for whom he's trying to provide a helping relationship. We have to keep our eye on excess of evaluation we need to ensure individual young children and older students that they have something to offer that they can succeed at some things. In other words I guess what we're saying is it sound mental health is fundamental to the good life and surely to complete academic success in school.
Behind the classroom door produced by W. and in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guest were Dr. Raymond B Fox associate dean of the College of Education. Dr. Leo Laughlin head of the Department of Administration and services and Dr. Kenneth Green assistant professor of education. Next week's topic will be why some children drop out of high school. This program is distributed by the dash little educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
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Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
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