The authors of ‘Teaching Young Children with ADHD’ could not have phrased it better when they wrote, “No job is more satisfying than teaching children: however, no job in educating is more demanding or stressful than is teaching.”
While teaching children with learning difficulties is rewarding and satisfying, it can take a toll on a special educator’s physical and emotional well-being. Therefore, it is essential that special educators take time to unwind and de-stress themselves. We often do not realise that children are like sponges and are more sensitive than we think while picking up vibes from their environment So if the special educator teaching them is stressed or high-strung, a child’s experience during their remedial class is going to be just that, i.e. stressed and high-strung.
While a special educator can be stressed due to various reasons, this article will target causes that arise on the job itself. Nevertheless, it is equally important to deal with other sources of stress be they health or family-related.
First and foremost, when working with children with special needs we must realise their inattentiveness, impulsivity, behavioural problems or difficulties with picking up reading are symptomatic of their disorder. Knowing this makes it easier to deal with any difficult behaviour they may exhibit. Also, a special educator need not hesitate to ask another teacher to fill in when she feels she has used up all her patience at any moment in time. Just like a battery needs to be recharged, we need time to revive our ‘power’ too. Secondly, we need not feel like we are alone in dealing with a child’s difficulties. It is the concerted efforts of parents, teachers, special educators and the child itself that will guide the child’s progress. A point that has helped me personally is realising we can only provide the means and opportunity for change. There are many factors beyond our control which include parental involvement and the child’s temperament that affects the child’s performance. Further, what I find most helpful is talking to my colleagues about the children I work with. Sometimes another professional working with you may provide a new perspective or throw light on a new method which might prove more effective for a child. This reduces the feeling of having problems beyond your ability to manage.
In addition, special educators will benefit from maintaining an exercise routine. As all teachers in the special needs department know, teaching can sometimes get very tiring. But being fit and eating healthy contributes to better stamina at work. And as we all know, this aids in having a stable mind as well. Lastly, never hesitate to seek professional help if you feel you cannot manage stress.
Teaching is a joyful experience and that is exactly how it should remain.
Lougy, R., DeRuvo S., & Rosenthal, D. (2008) Teaching Young Children with ADHD. Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd.
(An edited version of this article first appeared in ‘In Sync with Kids’ at http://www.prayatna.org.blog)