Jana holds up a mask to indicate that how she presents externally is not how she feels inside

New free, Czech e-course, Together for Better Schools, equips teachers with the knowledge necessary to teach troubled and traumatised students

Published: May 26, 2022 Reading time: 6 minutes

Why is this child constantly angry? Why does this girl interrupt all the time and why is she so disruptive during my classes? Why is this boy so infuriating and why does he always fight with his classmates? In a new online course, created by People in Need, teachers, teaching assistants and other pedagogical staff and students, can explore the causes of these challenging and disruptive behaviours in students and learn effective coping strategies regarding how to deal with them.

In the last two years, we have witnessed the importance of prioritising student well-being in education. What is more, many new students who have fled the war in Ukraine have started attending Czech schools. These students have often already experienced difficult, sometimes even traumatic, life events and may be exhibiting “troublesome” behaviour in school.

So, how do we make schools a safe space for students and learn to understand the needs of these children so that we all feel better in the classroom? These important questions are explored in the free, online course, Příběh Jany (The Story of Jana), which is suitable for teachers, teaching assistants, school administrators and other pedagogical professionals.

In addition to the lead author, Adéla Lábusová (People in Need), seven experts in learning, special education and psychology all took part in the creation of the Příběh Jany course. This course is the third instalment in the series Together for Better Schools, part of People in Need’s educational program, Varianty.

PŘÍBĚH JANY: FIGHTING WITH CLASSMATES AND CUTTING CLASS

In the course, we get to know Jana, a young girl whose peers don’t know how to cope with her anymore. Jana started acting out in 5th grade when she began to have problems learning and began picking more and more fights with her mother and her classmates. As she got older, the problems only get worse. She began cutting class and, once, she even physically attacked her classmate, Tamara.

“School annoys me,” says Jana at the beginning of the course. “What’s the point? My classmates talk about stupid things and they irritate me on purpose… What kind of life is this?” The teacher tries to help Jana, but neither punishments nor rewards seem to have any effect on her.

“A certain degree of acting out and disruption in children is a manifestation of healthy development. It’s how they establish their identities and value and learn how to integrate with society. The course explains what kinds of challenging and disruptive behaviours are typical and at what point they can be too much. Why do these behaviours arise and what signals are children trying to send those around them? What are children really trying to communicate with their behaviour?”” These are the types of questions that are explored by author, Adéla Lábusová, a methodologist, lecturer and specialist in inclusive education, throughout the course.

But how do we recognise unhealthy and difficult behaviours in students? Of course, it is important to regularly reflect on children’s behaviour and their role in it and how their behaviour affects the feelings of those around them. For instance, if a teacher starts to feel uneasy due to how a student is acting, that’s a red flag and they should pay closer attention. It is important to remember that the behaviour doesn’t simply have to be overtly disruptive, the student could also be exhibiting troubling attention-seeking behaviour, for example relying too heavily on the teacher for emotional support. Behaviours liked these might actually be signals that something might be wrong.

Excessive disruptive behaviour can be a symptom of long-term mental discomfort related to unmet needs, trauma, or even some sort of different in typical central nervous system development.

DIG DEEP – ALL THE WAY DOWN TO ROOTS OF POSSIBLE TRAUMA

In this course, teachers and teaching assistants can learn to identify and understand the possible causes of difficult student behaviour over several chapters and with the help of demonstrations and interactive questions.

They’ll learn:

  • What complex and relationship trauma is and how it’s related to demanding behaviour
  • What functions conspicuous and risky behaviour serve, as well as the importance of well-being and what needs to happen in order for a person to achieve it
  • How challenging and disruptive behaviour can be related to falling behind in school and central nervous development
  • How to respond to disruptive behaviour in education and how to work with the emotions and needs of children in order to effectively prevent risky behaviour

The course is accompanied by thoughtfully drawn illustrations by the artist My Linh Nguyen so self-study will also guide you through the many demonstrations and interactive tasks.

“The course gave me an understanding that I will try to apply not only in my professional life, but also in my personal life. It also gave me new insights about children’s behaviour, which has its causes in insufficiently fulfilled needs and in feeling unsafe. Until I took this course, I had not looked at children’s behaviour as a “call for help” to ensure safety. I now realise how transgenerational trauma affects people I know,” wrote a recent graduate of the Příběh Jany course.

THE COURSE TEACHES PARTICIPANTS ABOUT WELL-BEING IN CHILDREN – AND HOW IT COULD APPLY TO UKRAINIAN STUDENTS

The course explains how to ensure the mental well-being of any child in any situation. “It is important to understand that not all children coming from Ukraine have post-traumatic stress. That said, all these children do come with an experience that is significant and cannot be considered positive. The fact that they had to leave their home and probably part of their family or friends behind very quickly is a strong emotional burden,” says Adéla Lábusová.

“In the course, we focus primarily on “relationship” trauma. This is the trauma that arises from a long-term negative experience of ill-treatment. However, the trauma of experiencing an extreme negative event, such as a war, could manifest itself and work in a similar way,” emphasises Adéla Lábusová.

The course can serve everyone, even parents, since it focuses on the topics of well-being and balance, as well as creating healthy self-image.

“The course is universal. We tried to cover the widest range of information as it applies to high school students, all the way down to first graders. We want to create an environment in schools in which children behave less disruptively and can learn better,” adds Adéla Lábusová.

DO YOU WANT TO TRY THE COURSE?

Start studying in the comfort of your home for free by registering on the Together for Better Schools website. Just enter your e-mail to get started.

2140 participants have already completed the first two parts of the Together for Better Schools series (Příběh Sama, Sam není sám, 2021). More than 120 people have already passed the newly published course Příběh Jany.

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Please note that at the time of publication, the course is only available in Czech

Author: Jitka Holasová, Translators: Anna Munter and Adéla Zámečníková

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