One important key to such understanding is the physical and social environment of the individual. Careful, long-range studies are now being made of the relationship.
1. The Individual in His School:
A study made recently indicates that the greatest prestige is often given to those students with organisational leadership ability— the ability to get other students to agree on what is to be done and to organise them so as to do it effectively, even if what is planned is not approved by the school authorities.
In some schools the value placed by students upon superior attainment is high, in others it is low. Such student values are of extreme importance and can usually be developed by the school itself with the support of the homes and community. This “climate” of the school often becomes traditional.
Recently a father took his son out of a public school that had a very low standard and secured his admission into one of the private schools which had maintained unusually high scholastic standards. In the public school the boy received high marks, but his achievement was low.
In the private school the boy was told that he would be dismissed at the end of the term unless his achievement improved.
By hard work, and with the help of outside tutoring, he steadily advanced and eventually was doing the high quality of work of which he was capable. The improvement was due to the climate of the private school and his acceptance of it.
2. The Individual in His Home:
Another life area that is important in our attempts to understand an individual is his home. The socio-economic level of the home may account for the academic ambition or apathy of the child. Generally speaking, the lower the level of the home, the less education is valued.
Subtle psychological forces such as acceptance, rejection, or domination may play important roles in shaping the child.
The relationship between parent’s arid children and sibling relationships may provide us with keys to the behaviour we observe. The home is often the most important element in the individual’s life, and we cannot understand him without knowing about his home.
The counsellor may be an important bridge between the school and the home and thus help both the parent and the teacher to know the student more completely.
3. The Individual in His Community:
Community conditions are of great importance in securing an’ understanding of individual students and in developing effective self-concepts.
Such conditions are fully as significant as those in the home or in the school. Differences in the social status of families in a community often are reflected in the attitude’ of different groups of high-school students toward one another.
Differences in dress, in habits of speech, in social manner, in points of view, and in values are often seen. In consolidated schools, rivalries and clanish customs often appear and cause feelings of hostility between groups.
In spite of efforts made by the school staff to overcome these unfavourable conditions, they often continue. In the school itself, students in the college preparatory course are likely to look down on those taking industrial courses.
Understanding cannot come merely from observation of what a person does, how he acts, and how he seems to feel. It is important to know the influences that were responsible for his behaviour, “how he got that way”, what his purpose was in doing what he did. Many times he himself does not understand why he acted as he did.