Columnists

Enhancing social status of isolated, rejected pupils

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
A GOOD understanding of the groups to which some learners are forced to belong while they attend school, can help parents and teachers to effectively deal with various problems that affect children.
Indeed, several factors play a role in the promotion of social competences among children. For instance, for most children with disabilities, the problems of making and keeping friends are compounded by their poor social skills. But we – parents, teachers and communities at large – have an obligation to help young ones realise their full potential in school.
Rick Lavoie, in ‘The teacher’s role in developing social skills’, says children fall into four basic categories in a school environment:
1. Isolated – these are children who, although not openly rejected, are actively ignored by classmates or schoolmates and are most of the time not involved in the social aspects of a school. To their peers, these are invisible in a school’s social setting. Because of their invisibility, some people refer to them as ‘ghost children’.
2. Rejected – children who constantly face ridicule, bullying and harassment by their peers. Negative sentiments against them far much outweigh positive ones.
3. Controversial – such pupils have established a circle of friends based on common interests or proximity but rarely move out of the circle. Generally, these receive both positive and negative sentiments from their peers.
4. Popular – these are in a variety of groups, within which they have successfully established positive relationships. They are visible in a number of areas, such as participation in sports, drama and debate clubs. Popular children are liked by most of their peers.
No doubt, pupils who are greatly disadvantaged are those that are isolated or rejected by their friends. Being ignored or rejected by peers actually affects one’s beliefs about their ability to make and keep friends in the future.
As teachers and other instructors in institutions of learning fully understand these differences, they have a better chance of easily meeting the diverse learning needs of all their learners.
For pupils that are isolated as a result of their physical appearance, disability, perceived low intelligence or low status, among other factors, it is important that teachers and parents assist them in changing the views of their peers.
For example, it is possible to determine specific interests, hobbies, or strengths of an isolated/ rejected child through engaging him or her in a friendly conversation. After you have identified these – besides encouraging them to take part in various social activities in school – you can then publicly celebrate the rejected/ isolated pupil’s interests and strengths that you have identified. This way, that child can have his or her status improved.
A teacher can also give such children leadership roles and ensure that the rest of the classmates are dependent upon them, for example as ‘class production monitor’ or ‘assistant class monitor’. When such a child exhibits his abilities, of course under the guidance of their teacher, his/ her status and acceptance among classmates is enhanced.
It is important, too, for parents to frequently visit schools to discuss their children’s social status and needs. This is because a child’s positive development can be promoted through school and home work.
Members of communities, including parents, guardians and teachers, should always remember that children go to school for a living.
ephatm@yahoo.com/ emudenda@daily-mail.co.zm

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