Johnston, Peters, and Evraiff say, “The school must be conceived of as the setting for learning experiences, and everything which helps to make that setting educational is a concern of the teacher.” Teachers affect the lives and personalities of children, and their influence goes far beyond the academic area and what can be measured by achievement tests.
Ohlsen say, “If the teacher will accept each pupil as he is, with all his strengths and weaknesses, and will help him to improve where he needs to improve, the teacher will have many opportunities to help pupils understand and accept themselves and to aid them in defining reasonable life goals—two major aims of guidance. He may also influence the attitudes and feelings which contribute to making independent choice either easy or difficult.”
1. The Teacher Studies Children: Child study is a basic guidance function and is accomplished through the use of both formal methods involving tests and cumulative records and informal methods based upon observations of the pupil in his classroom and in other settings. The teacher learns much about the child as he studies the pupil’s production, his oral and written work, his art work, and his reading record. The teacher seeks to observe hobbies and interests as an aid to motivation through understanding. Observations of behaviour systematized through the use of the anecdotal record provide a rich source of data for child study.
The teacher in an elementary school is in a strategic position to conduct child study, for he sees the child in many differing situations and has frequent opportunity for contacts with parents. The first-grade teacher who must provide more formal learning experiences for children entering school for the first time faces a big task in studying the individual pupils in his class. Too frequently a reading-readiness score is the only objective evidence of individual differences. Readiness for learning depends upon physical and mental factors, situational factors, and the self-system of the child.
The child must see what is to be learned as meaningful and useful as it relates to his needs, goals, and self-concept. The teacher must first look at the individuals in his class in order to determine each child’s readiness for learning, the degree to which individual needs are being met, and how each child sees himself. The teacher also looks at himself and raises the question, “How do I feel about each of these pupils? What are my personal needs which may influence my relationship with the group or with individuals within the class? 2. The Teacher Collects Data about Children:Early identification of individual needs makes educational planning more valid. Identification and planning, however, must be continuous and not a one-time experience.
Identification involves observation in many areas of behaviour, a study of developmental records, and interviews with parents and children. Kough and DeHaan provide teachers with techniques and procedures for observing behaviour. Their handbook provides descriptions of behaviours which can be observed as a basis for recognising children with special interests, abilities, or problems. One of the most useful techniques for informal study is the anecdotal record together with the roster of observations kept by the teacher.
The teacher will also participate in the collection of data by more formal methods and will utilize all the data in the cumulative record of the child. Such data usually cover personal and family background, health, attendance, scholarship, and activities both in and out of school. The standardized test, inventories, and rating scales may all be used in the elementary school to provide essential information for understanding children. The cumulative record which the school develops in designed to help teachers function more effectively by grouping the data collected so that conclusions are more easily drawn.
Effective use of pupil records is possible only when the information covers all the fundamental areas of human development and when it is so organised that developmental patterns are evident. Then the record can be analyzed with a reasonable expenditure of time and effort. Cassell offers a plan of organisation for recording developmental data on a profile which makes it possible to recognise growth in some six areas of physiological, emotional, psychosexual, intellectual, social, and educational development. This or some similar plan lends continuity to records. 3. The Teacher Counsels: The teacher works with individuals as well as groups, and there is a kind of counselling which is a legitimate function of the classroom teacher. Johnston feels that the teacher’s relationship with pupils in this class often leads to possibilities for establishing good counselling rapport. Only in the classroom climate which is really conductive to learning can such a rapport be established, because it is based on respect for the individual and reflects attitudes and not processes.
Gordon reminds us that “the teacher-counsellor cannot be all things to all students. He must be closely aware of his limits and use referral processes when the counselling situation seems to be going ‘out of his depth.’” Johnston says: “The teacher’s counselling role is not a therapeutic one, but he does aim at offering the student assistance in making more effective personal and environmental adjustments.” When the pupil is unable to relate to the classroom teacher, or when the case calls for techniques beyond the ability of the teacher, the child should be referred to the school counsellor. Many teachers are including courses in guidance in their graduate programmes, and these teachers often possess skills which make for effective counselling. If a teacher finds it difficult to accept the basic philosophy of counselling, he cannot be expected to do counselling, as such, in his work. Counsellors can serve as consultants to teachers, thus providing in service education in the area of referral procedures.
The case conference involving teacher, administrator, nurse, counsellor, visiting teacher, and school psychologist offers an excellent opportunity to increase the teacher’s skill in looking beneath symptoms to problems which need to be referred. Although the teacher is the key guidance worker in the elementary school, he needs to recognise the guidance roles of other school personnel. The teacher is a member of a team whose function is to obtain the maximum development of each child in the school. Johnston says, “No school is effectively staffed guidance-wise when there is not someone in the school who can function as a counsellor and handle the kinds of cases which are referred by the classroom teacher.”