| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Primary issues

School can be a source of great anxiety to some children – and their parents. We discuss some common problems that can hinder kids’ progress when settling in at ‘big school’

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Thankfully, schools have changed enormously since we parents were little sprogs in long shorts and gymslips. Back then, children were seen and not heard, the cane was a not-too-distant memory, and we all had that teacher we feared even more than the devil himself.

These days (thankfully!), the attitude to learning – and teaching, is completely different. It’s all geared towards making the classroom environment a happy, positive experience for the pupils, which will in turn promote self confidence and a desire to learn. Children are also taught to learn through their own investigations and research, and there is a big emphasis on school being a happy place. Even so, not every child will immediately enjoy going to school – and when anxiety is involved, parents, no matter how well-meaning, can actually make the situation worse. But the good news is, it’s all surmountable. So read on!

My teacher doesn’t like me!
‘No teacher should ever convey feelings of dislike to a child,’ says Clive Pierrepont, director of communications for the Taaleem group of schools and former school principal. ‘Children must also understand that what teachers say and what teachers mean are often two different things: if a teacher says “shut up”, a sensitive child might take that as the teacher disliking them, when in fact the opposite could be true – sometimes it can actually be a positive sign that the teacher is taking an active interest in them.’

That’s all very well in the rational, adult world, but how can we assure children that this is the case without undermining their feelings? ‘The problem should be addressed with the teacher. For younger children this would probably be done by the parents, but as kids get older and develop their social skills, they might prefer to do it themselves. It’s vital that you – or they – create that dialogue, otherwise children will retreat and think: If you don’t like me, I’ll give you a reason not to like me – and that’s a dangerous downwards spiral.’ Living in Dubai can add to these difficulties, he explains. ‘Teachers are taught how damaging a seemingly casual remark can be – but sometimes misunderstandings are inevitable,’ Clive says. ‘In this culture some children are brought up by hired help and there are no behavioural boundaries, so when they’re in school and the teacher doesn’t let them do whatever they want, the child can find it difficult to accept.’

Time Out Dubai,

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