Teaching Tales


"I have individual conferences with all of the children. I ask those with medical problems to explain their conditions to me...in their words. Then I ask how I can help them to be happy and to do well in school. It really sets a positive mood, and they're appreciative that I haven't singled them out in the classroom." 

"I try not to be afraid of my students with complex medical conditions. What works best for me when I don't understand an aspect of the child's condition is to ask the school nurse, and then to call the parents if I'm still uncomfortable. I've learned the hard way NEVER to ask the children to explain about their conditions in front of other children." 

"I've learned that some kids will try to use their medical conditions to get out of work. That's certainly understandable, but not good for them. I try to find a private place to discuss my concerns...without being conspicuous, and this seems to nip the problem in the bud." 

"What's really sad is to see how hard some kids try to be like everybody else...even if that means not taking medicines that they need, not adhering to prescribed diets, and not paying attention to important symptoms. We're starting an after-school group for kids like that at my school." 

"I'm always looking for special ways for children to feel necessary. If they can't compete, I make them the "official" scorekeeper or team manager, and when I can, I try to teach them something that the other kids don't know how to do." 

"I had this one child with arthritis, and I know what that's like because my best friend has it, too. So I told her that I understood how stiff she can get, and I said that if she needed to get up and move around to loosen a joint, it was OK." 

"When I found out that one of my new fourth graders was hearing impaired, I searched around for a teacher that was, too, and used her school experiences to help me better understand this little girl's needs." 

"When a 14-year-old brought in his new blood testing kit, we used it in physics class. Though the two of us were the only ones who "got stuck", the students all saw first hand what goes on. It is so helpful to dispel myths and take an interest in any student willing to discuss an illness with others. So many teachers don't want to "waste the time it takes, but believe me, it is time well spent!"

"Because of my own disability (deafness), I'm sensitive as a teacher to structuring interdependent tasks so that the contributions of students with disabilities may be valued...I think that it's important to foster equal interaction, avoiding  situations in which students are assigned to "help" the student with a disability (e.g., "Okay Tommy, today you'll be Kimmie's 'friend.'"). This doesn't really foster altruism! The unequal interaction makes the student with a disability feel conspicuous."

"One of our teachers has a youngster in her class who is terminally ill with a brain tumor. This teacher is an absolute gem!  She is sensitive, caring, and extraordinary in so many ways.  For example, when our young girl started to lose her hair, the teacher declared "Crazy Hat Week," so that all children would wear hats to school."

"When my second-graders come into the classroom, they choose a happy or sad-faced sticker to wear. Sure helps me to know who needs extra attention that morning. So much goes on at home that can influence their behavior, and this strategy helps all of the children to learn sensitivity."

"The setup of the classroom is so important. I work with young children, and maintain two lounge chairs (recliners) in the back of the room to give those having a tough time a place to regroup. Having this safe place seems to prevent problems that might otherwise occur  when the pressure builds up."

"There's a corner of my classroom that is a refuge for children who are having a tough time coping with school, family, teasing, whatever. I have a cozy recliner there, and children are allowed to use it when they, or me, think they need a breather. It works wonderfully!"

"I teach in an inner city, and use what I think is an effective strategy to start the day. I keep a basket of faces at the door...smily ones, sad ones, angry ones, etc. When the children arrive, they select a face that reflects how they're feeling, and we focus on ways that we all can help when the going gets rough. It also keeps me on my toes in terms of knowing who needs nurturance or more involved follow up...on a daily basis."

Do you have some tales to tell? If you do, I hope that you'll mail them to me in this envelope.

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing  Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: November 14, 2004