Every child has their share of school challenges and learning curves. However, not all of these issues are necessarily bad. Without healthy periods of confrontation and growth, children lack specific knowledge and skills as they mature. Nevertheless, there’s a sharp difference between healthy challenges and chronic issues within the classroom. Many of these recurring obstacles can all be traced back to one root: a negative learning environment. Although most schools are filled with strong, supportive teachers and classrooms, if you notice concerning symptoms and behaviors throughout your child’s school year, take a step closer and begin examining their learning environment.
Ineffective Classrooms and Teaching Methods
Many children are falsely accused of being “problem students” or “rebels.” Struggling grades, poor classroom interaction, or unhealthy social skills can create unfair stigmas. For some students, these common difficulties may actually be the result of ineffective classroom management. Researchers have isolated four main components of a child’s mental health that suffer when teachers do not vary their teaching styles or use enough educational resources. Also, poor teacher-student relationships and inappropriate conflict management often produce a toxic classroom atmosphere. Rather than simply dismissing poor grades or frequent trips to the principal office as rebellious outbursts or “stages,” begin a deeper inquiry of your child’s classroom and teachers. Common symptoms of an ineffective learning environment include:
Obvious signs of teacher-student conflict (frequent fights, arguments, etc.)
Sudden drop in grades or interest in a specific subject
“Dreading” school or trying to skip classes frequently
Neglecting homework or showing extreme disinterest
Although bullying is a fairly common topic in most schools, deciphering the subtle signs isn’t always very easy. Many schools are actively implementing programs specifically geared toward eliminating these dangerous behaviors. However, even with a great program and a close watch, subtle bullying behaviors can still slip under the radar. Physical fights, injuries, and loud arguments are all easy to spot, but what happens when our child becomes a hidden, unknown target? Childhood depression, self-harming behaviors, eating disorders, and even running away are all extreme concerns. Unfortunately, these silent cries for help often result from on-going bullying and abusive behaviors that grew in secret. Although a little harder to spot, “secret” bullying and abuse still have critical warning signs:
Frequent illnesses and health concerns that can’t be traced to a physical cause (“mysterious” headaches, stomach aches, etc.)
Abruptly quitting school extracurriculars (sports, clubs, etc.)
Changes in eating habits (loss of appetite or extreme binge eating)
Lack of social interests (actively avoiding older friends or failing to make new ones; avoiding social events)
Hiding their social media activity from you or spending extreme amounts of time on their computer or phone
Mysterious loss or damage to school supplies or other possessions
Spending large amounts of time with certain friends or adults
Unhealthy Peer Pressure
Peer pressure is a buzz word that many parents have been trained to fear and hate. We often dread our children falling prey to the powerful social pressure of gangs or the “bad crowd” of their school. However, peer pressure isn’t always so black and white. Just has negative pressure can drive a student towards danger, positive peer pressure and encouragement work the opposite way; Jim Brillon Therapy sessions mentions the importance of healthier lifestyle choices, increased school motivation, and improved social confidence are several benefits of healthy peer pressure. Unfortunately, in some cases, what may look healthy and positive may not always be true. Protect your child’s learning environment and school experience by watching for unhealthy signs of peer pressure in their relationships. These signs often become more noticeable with time and close observation.
Obsessive focus on their image and outward appearance (constantly changing their appearance, comparing themselves to others, obsessively exercising or dieting, showing extreme stress over their weight, etc.)
Extreme drops or signs of shame in their grades or school performance (intelligence and giftedness are sometimes viewed as unpopular or “uncool”)
Spending large amounts of time with only one group of friends or abruptly severely ties with their old friends
Personality changes and behavior differences
Abruptly abandoning favorite past times or hobbies without explanation
Suddenly getting a boyfriend or girlfriend (increased interest in sexual behaviors)
Many unique facets make up our children’s learning environments and school atmosphere. Although we may not be able to control every aspect of their school days, we can help ensure that unhealthy environments and behaviors are minimized. Next to home, children spend a vast majority of their time and energy on their school campus. By watching for signs of an unhealthy learning environment we allow our children to thrive in the best atmosphere possible. As parents, we must equip our children with the knowledge and tools necessary for them to take the appropriate action when they recognize an unhealthy environment. For more information on positive learning environments and what it takes to create one, please contact us today.