The school experience is always difficult

Development of the psyche : Successful learning is a question of internal structure

In recent years, I and many of my colleagues have noticed a change in our school children with great concern: More and more children are acting with little self-control: They have no discernible clarity in their eyes or behavior, which often leads to massive disruptions leads in class and in social interaction. The children are “not self-sufficient”, that's how I always tried to describe this phenomenon in words. They seem to lack an internal structure and order and the possibility of being able to access and act consciously on them. These children are not masters of themselves, they seem lost in themselves. They act in an uncontrolled manner in terms of their motor skills, they ask for attention, sometimes suddenly make incomprehensible sounds or sometimes appear completely apathetic.

Michael Winterhoff recently published his book “Deutschland Dummt”. Opinions on it differ greatly, some consider the book to be a very clear, honest analysis, others find it far too negative and a slap in the face for teachers and parents. I do not want to evaluate Winterhoff's statements here, but I am grateful to him for a certain formulation. He sums up this barely tangible change in many children in coherent words: These children have an “undeveloped psyche”. Winterhoff shows exactly how such a state of being can come about, and also describes how these children stay at the same level as small children, in their will and in their being. And that also applies exactly to my observations. I recently spoke to a high school teacher who even confirmed this for some of her eighth grade students.

How successfully children learn is a question of their internal structure

As long as the situational needs are met immediately, no demands are made and these children are more or less served, everything is good so far. This is probably one of the reasons why many parents do not even notice that their child is showing this abnormality. But when life - or even school - demands something beyond that, it becomes difficult. The willingness to make an effort is low, as is a certain level of self-discipline, which makes cooperation and learning together possible in the first place. If the parents do not succeed in recognizing the problem of their child and taking action at the latest by then, the blame is often sought with the school or the teachers.

As a teacher, I have always observed that how successfully children learn was a question of internal structure. If it was possible to improve this internal structure, both the results and the children's enjoyment of learning improved. Based on these years of experience, I am firmly convinced that, as a rule, every child can learn well, but that this very aspect of the development of the psyche, of “being in one place”, is often overlooked.

Some children give up before they even start

The important question for me is what I can do at school to help these children. Because the children are usually not happy like that. When they work together, they quickly notice that their abilities are very limited. Since they rarely finish something and usually do not do it carefully, they rarely have a sense of achievement that could spur them on. School content tends to get stuck through repetition rather than being able to really consciously absorb and classify it. However, children who lack the necessary self-control often give up before they have even started, and they quickly become indifferent to many things. They lack the opportunity to act consciously and to experience their self-efficacy.

Ultimately, you have to work with the children in a completely different way than the actual teaching work provides. School work is possible with large numbers of children if they are already able and willing to listen, follow instructions, and do their chores carefully. This is precisely what fewer and fewer children are able to do, or only with difficulty; they must first be empowered to do so. With the growing number of these children, however, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to do justice to them in the usual class. This takes very small groups and time.

An external structure creates an internal structure

Especially at the beginning of this process, in which the child learns to take responsibility on their own initiative, the personal relationship is most important: It needs a person who is always in constant contact with the child who is very conscious of the child stands, offers him orientation and gives him feedback via facial expressions, gestures and language. An external structure creates an internal structure. It is therefore very important to give clear instructions, to make clear demands, to set clear boundaries and to build up a clear horizon of expectations.

The key here is to design and accompany the process in such small steps and individually so that the child will be successful. Self-efficacy is a very strong feeling, the more often children experience this, the more they exert themselves on their own initiative. So it's not about setting rules and limits for their own sake; they have to be set in such a way that the child has a space of responsibility that they can fully grasp and in which they feel the competence about themselves and things with who are busy, experienced.

In some cases, school content and tasks can be used very well for this purpose. However, it is precisely the abundance of the required content that prevents the children from having this important experience of self-competence over and over again and lets them quickly fall back into the feeling of a certain helplessness. Far less is far more here.

Strengthen the sensory perception with movement and music

In addition, it is important to build up the children's physicality, sensory perception, body awareness, the perception of oneself and of others. This works well with targeted use of language, for example with predetermined sentence patterns or poems, with singing, especially in canon or polyphonic, making music with instruments, with rhythm work, sporting exercises that consciously build on mutual perception, and also with various handicrafts that improve motor skills and train coordination.

In my experience, it takes a good year and a half of intensive work to lay a solid foundation for these children. However, this only works if parents do not actively work against it. And you have to work with the children during this period with a view to their inner development, not with a view to external results and learning achievements, in other words completely different from what the school landscape currently requires.