Letter to the Editor

Negative consequences of wrong theories and positive effects of a personalised approach – two examples

The article by Dr Perret, “Das Menschenbild entscheidet – Psychiatrie vs. Pädagogik (The conception of man decides – psychiatry versus pedagogy)”, in Current Concerns No 5 of 12 March 2024, provides an excellent explanation of the theoretical background to the dramatic deterioration in the educational “output”, as we call it today, of our schools. We are alarmed when yet another study documents how poorly pupils in German-speaking countries are actually performing. But is there any serious research into the causes?
  Two primary school classes at the same school, enrolled in the year before last, develop as follows:

One of the classes:
Lessons take place in a room in which room dividers and separate tables are supposed to create a quiet working atmosphere. Partition walls, as in a language lab, and headphones, as customary in a workshop, are available.
  The class teacher observes the children closely and realises that many children are not prepared for school. She reacts quickly to, for example, Mario’s toddler-like behaviour. She does everything in her power to ensure that this child will receive a learning companion as soon as possible. After a week at school, she is certain that Mario will not be able to cope without a learning guide. She tries her best to exert a positive influence in the classroom. She interprets Mario’s behaviour as a perceptual disorder and makes fewer demands on him. The special education teachers, who are present in the classroom from time to time, also pay special attention to this child. The teacher maintains close contact with the children’s parents and advises them to have investigations carried out and to seek help from specialists. Parents who resist claims that something is wrong with their child are seen as a problem. “Co-operative” parents go to occupational therapy on the advice of the teacher, for assessment for ADHD, LRS, autism, dyscalculia, etc.
  Four of the total of 18 pupils are now repeating the class. Two other pupils returned to Year 1 in the middle of Year 2.

The other class:
The teacher has arranged all the desks so that everyone can see everyone else and always leads the pupils through the lesson together.
  This teacher also sees deficits in several children who have started school and tries to explain them in terms of their family and social environment and the way they have grown up. Why, for example, does Alexandra stare glassily in front of her in class and not accept any explanation from her teacher? The conversation with the very young single mother of two children, who is still in education herself, reveals that she literally “parks” her older daughter in front of the screen because she feels overwhelmed. After talking about the consequences for the child and her learning and then developing alternatives together, this girl blossoms. By the middle of the 2nd school year, her finger is regularly up in class discussions and she is able to reconnect with the subject matter.
  All 21 pupils in this class are at a level that second-graders should be at by the middle of the school year.

The tragedy is that today, a teacher who really works pedagogically has to justify not calling in the whole armada of so-called experts. The superficial observer does not see the demanding daily relationship work and cannot appreciate how much the teacher’s attitude, his view of human nature and his empathy determine the children’s development.

Sigrid Brand, Hamburg

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