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Saturday, October 31, 2009

counselling my students

For the past ten years that I have been teaching private tuition to secondary school kids, sometimes I have to learn to counsel them too. About feeling discouraged at school, about their relationship with their parents, about their friendships, about stress and anxiety. I use a mix of my own knowledge of psychology, the words of my psychiatrist, and my own experiences.

Lately because I have branched out into teaching pre-teen kids as well, something which is different, I find that counselling an eleven-year-old is rather different from counselling teenagers. One of my eleven-year-old students felt extremely discouraged over her maths exam, and even emailed me late at night to tell me about how she think she has disappointed me. The next day we were supposed to have a lesson, but I told her let's not have a lesson, instead, if she wants to chat and hang out we can do that. She came over and brought her teddy bear, her favourite comics. After telling me in person about how she left out a lot of questions in the exam, we then drifted to talking about other things, like her comics, her school life, her siblings. I chipped in my share of stories related to the topics she brought up. By the time she left my house to go home for dinner, she was cheered up. Her countenance changed from the sluggish slouch she came with to the chirpy little girl she ought to be.

In contrast, my teenage students when counselled, often involves tearing and silence. From both parties. Tearing because when I say something that aptly rings true to describe how they feel, they tear up. Tearing because when I share my own similar experience, I tear up. Silence when my student agrees with my advice and is processing it.

I don't think I can handle any kids younger than eleven years old. Beyond this age of students I can still be myself. With younger kids I tend to become someone else, to fit a teacherly persona. It is tiring to be someone you are not. Despite my having had taught kids of almost all ages before, I still feel that children are not me, for them I have to be a total act. Being inauthentic is tiring. And for me, tiring means a mental breakdown. I don't mind brief encounters with young kids, but they cannot be a large part of my work or life.

I have been re-thinking again about taking a counselling course. This has been a silent part of my aspirations for many years, but I always rejected the idea because of the cost. That and because I am an avid fan of self-learning over classroom-learning. I don't like the idea of signing up to pay for a course when I can easily learn whatever it is on my own; I have done so for years and it has saved me a lot of money since my interests are so vast. The good thing is that I soak information from all genres up like a sponge. The bad thing is that I am not paper-qualified for anything. The counselling course would definitely be invaluable to my career in future considering that I still want to do mission work or NGO-work when I recover. In the meantime it would help me with my teaching. Either way I can use it immediately and add it to my resume. Regardless, now is not the time. I am taking on more things that I can handle if I add any more to my plate.

So I will continue to use my mix of counselling experience, psychology knowledge, biblical truths, words from my own doctor, to counsel my students when they need it. Bring on the pop-psychology.