PSYCHOTRAUMATIZING of PUPILS

24. května 2012 v 16:13 | Prof.PhDr.Rudolf Kohoutek,CSc.
Psychical traumas experienced by pupils, students or teachers at Czech schools don´t
usually have a character of extreme macrotraumas (such as primary life or health threat),
but more likely of less remarkable microtraumas. Somatic macrotraumas at schools are not
mostly caused on purpose (e.g. injuries at sports). For the most part the macrotrauma like this
is a a trauma both for the afflicted and the one who caused it unwillingly.

Psychic microtraumas
(experiences of unsuccessfullness, verbal agression, insulting, humiliation, muck-raking),
especially those with chronicity, may have severe impact on personality development,
psychical, social and physical health.
Our entry of psychical traumatizing partly results from contemporary academic and
scientific literature and partly from the action research of collaborationist focal university
students´ group, (57 men and 94 women), who gave over their remembrances and experiences
from nursery, primary, secondary school and university attendance, which may have
threaten their psychical and social health and adequate personality development. (In total 15
% surveyed students mentioned that uncomfortable experiences at school belonged to their
most serious actual traumas ).
We have chosen the action research because it is focused on cognition, evaluation and
improvement of working experience (teaching working experience at all school types, too).
In the research students and pupils most often complained of humiliation on teachers´
part and teachers´ "choleric" or someone else´s cold-livered way of dealing with students.
,,Cholericity" was too little differentiated term, though. It involved e.g. teachers´ choleric
temperament, eventual personality disorders, increased neuroticism, neuroses and perhaps
even other psychopatological tendencies.
A half of students surveyed described teachers´ vexation (bossing) and classmates´
bullying (mobbing).
Types of psychical traumatizing
Both macrotraumatizing and microtraumatizing may be classified into four types
- primary, secondary, tertiary and quarternary. Nevertheless, more common is primary
psychotraumatizing (concerning the individual himself) and secondary psychotraumatizing
(concerned other persons).
There is another possible classification - we distinguish individual and group
traumatizing, which is quite typical for educational system.
Not only individuals are traumatized, but also the whole classes of students.
Primary psychical traumatizing means a situation, in which a student or a teacher
himself is a victim of bullying, corporal punishment (maybe originally intended to
someone else), humiliation or he is experiencing emotional stress (e.g. anxiety, dismay,
humiliation, disgrace), helplessness, unsuccessfulness, hostility on the part of other people,
aversion, feeling of injustice (e.g. in virtue of criticism, reproach or lowered demerit),
mockery, irony, flippancy, scoring off, power manipulating, persecution. Children at nursery
schools are often traumatized with compulsion to eating up meals they don´t like.
Sometimes there is an individual victimized both by teachers and classmates. Occasionally
some of the victimized pupils must undergo longlasting mental treatment.
Primary psychotraumatizing (among other types of traumatizing) is being
experienced in the most intense way. It harms psychic and emotional health the most.
It may be effected intentionally or not.
One of the university students gives an illustrative example of primary psychotraumatizing
of secondary school pupils:
,,At grammar school we had a physics teacher who was an author of publication
about physics. He forced all students to buy the publication and to memorize it. He liked
oral examinations and if we didn´t answer properly before he counted to three, we got two
F´s. He multiplied the bad grades but the good ones stayed single. If we didn´t understand
something or couldn´t formulate something correctly, he asked us if we wanted E or F
and he added with the mocking smile that he didn´t like giving F´s. Once he said during
a student´s evaluation: "show your mug" and after he looked him through, he said loudly:
,,you can´t get a good grade with a face like this". He had also his favourite sentence:
,,Take a little walk, you have a mental blockage". Once he said to a classmate that he had
never seen such an imbecile and that he was "a serious genetic mistake of the mankind".
He liked tearing students´ exercise books. He complained that it is terrible to be a teacher
when students are so dull. From time to time he threw his keys at pupils and he slapped
them. He often said over: ,, There´s a God, then me, then nothing for a long time, then Mr.
schoolmaster, then nothing for a long time, a few stacks of dung and then are you. If you
are not quiet, I´ll throw someone out of the window". He did not try to remember students´
names, so he called everyone Hurvínek of Fridolín.
He set tests dates saying: ,,Boys will understand it and girls will learn it by
heart." I started to hate that teacher, but also physics as a subject, said the student in
conclusion."
Let us mention an example of primary psychotraumatizing of teachers: currently,
teachers often travel abroad with the whole classes, which is sometimes very traumatizing.
During a journey abroad pupils and teachers were embarking the ferry after the
midnight.
Teachers recommended sleepy children to bring with only the most necessary things
from the bus and to board quickly. They accomodated children in cabins four by four and
checked number of children. In one of the cabins a teacher found only three boys. He asked
where the fourth one is and he was told that the student was having a shower. In the morning
all of them met at breakfast. Students were counted several times over. One student was
missing. After a while his classmates confessed that a pupil of the fourth grade, Kuba, hadn´t
been in his cabin all night long. After teachers´ unsuccessful search for Kuba withing the
board, stressed and traumatized teachers called in the police. Some classmates, especially
girls, started flapping, crying and despairing. Neither the police found the pupil.
Time to go back to the bus was drawing nearer. Teachers´ and pupils´ stress was
increasing and intensifying. On the way to underdeck they met one of their bus drivers, who
told them excitedly that he had found a sleeping student under the bus seat. It was a big relief
for the traumatized teachers. How it happened? Children initiated a special sleeping system
during the bus trip. One slept on the two-seat and the other one slept under. While they were
leaving the bus and boarding the ferry, Kuba, sleeping under the seat, didn´t wake up and
noone noticed him under the cover, not either the drivers.
Fortunately, Kuba was a stoic, took it in good part and didn´t even mind that he
missed tasty breakfast aboard.
The boy´s classmates were reproved that they had concealed Kuba at night. Teachers
felt greatly exhausted, but on the other hand happy that all came right.
Secondary psychotraumatizing is for example a situation when pupils, students
or teachers are not traumatized themselves, they are not primary victims, but they were
witnesses of primary traumatizing of someone close, e.g. a classmate, friend, relative
or colleague. They are experiencing intensively their traumatizing, which negatively
influence their own mental condition.
This is mostly less intensive than the primary traumatizing.
There is an example of a first-grader Pavlík´s classmate traumatizing: his classmate
watched a situation when Pavlík asked a teacher if he could go to the toilet.
It was ten minutes to the break. A teacher got angry, she shouted at him that he must
hold out and he wasn´t allowed to go to the toilet. And Pavlík wet. He started crying.
A teacher told him off for the incident and made fun of him in front of the whole class.
Classmates didn´t lough though. They were sorry for him. A teacher left him sitting at
the desk till the break and after the lesson she took him to the headmaster´s room with
dislike. Some pupils were stressed by the situation, although they were not concerned
primarily.
Tertiary psychotraumatizing means such a situation when pupils, students or
teachers are witnesses of traumatizing people who they hadn´t known before and hadn´t
had any close relationship with them. Nevertheless, they feel stressed. Tertiary traumatizing
is generally less intense than primary and secondary traumatizing.
An illustrative example may be brush-up for state exams of two students (fri93
ends), who decided to study at campus. Their revision was disturbed by tertiary psychotraumatizing,
when an angry husband, whose wife cheated with a student, arrived
to the campus,. Her husband came to punch a student, so that a student was bloodily.
Studying friends didn´t know the beaten student, but the experience disturbed their next
study for the exam.
Quarternary psychotraumatizing means such a situation when pupils, students
or teachers are notified of psychotraumatizing other (unknown) people viva voce or
visually (e.g. through a film). If it concerns a sensitive or even hypersensitive personality,
this kind of traumatizing may have a negative influence on his mental condition. This
traumatizing is generally the least intensive.
We give an example of a viewer, who leaves TV news:
Why do I leave TV news? I leave it because during TV news we are mainly
provided informations with negative examples. During the programme we are presented
criminals, politicians´ quarrels and abuse, someone who offended, rises in
prices etc. I think that not only TV news lacks balance between negative and positive
examples.
Pupils´s, students´ and teachers´ symptoms of psychotraumatizing
The most frequent symptoms are hyperarousal, hyperexcitation, hypervigils,
psychic tension, panic, permanent expectation of danger, conflict, stress, frustration.
They may be situational, short-term or long-term. It seems that in some teachers there
is such a reactivity a steady state, typical for their behaviour, by reason of their personality
and temperament disorders or profession deformation. According to pupils
and students, teachers have "choleric behaviour" or temperament, going together with
shout, abuse, mockery, irony, self-will, corporal punishments, humiliation of the students
regarded as "difficult" by the teacher.
Of sorts, teachers with stabilized hyperexcitated behaviour consider this behaviour
to be a useful deterrent customizing technique, which reduces a great part of
hyperactivities, assertivities and agressions in active and self-confident pupils and students,
because it evokes anxious reactions or fear of a teacher.
The second frequent symptom of psychotraumatizing is intrusive behaviour,
including annoying, persistent and obsessional feelings, resulting from psychotraumatizing,
sometimes even with inclination to compulsions. Continual imagining of
traumatic situations and thinking about what had happened, often go along with so
called flashbacks, leading to the similar experiences that were evoked by the original
traumatic situation.
The third common symptom of psychotrauma is so called psychic constriction,
sort of inner psychic constriction, immobilizing "choke", which may have either acute
or chronical character. It concerns deformed reception which has a character of passive
defence customizing mechanism. It causes sort of temporary anesthesia against experienced
psychotrauma. It is an avoidance reaction.
Pupils and students often mentioned these symptoms of their psychotraumas.:
reduction of their confidence when their intelligence, appearance, weight, way of dressing
were mocked,
aversion against a teacher or a subject,
reasoning block,
chronic fear of "choleric" teacher behaviour,
fear or phobia of examinating and unfair evaluation,
headaches,
dyssomnia,
abdominalgia, emesia,
bowel symptoms,
nausea, swoon,
generally increased neuroticism.
Level of pupils, students and teachers psychic vulnerability
All people, both children and adults, don´t have the same level of psychical vulnerability,
(actual and long-term).
Some people are more resistant, other people are sensitive or even hypersensitive.
Stress hardiness, personality immunity and peevishness should be trained and developed.
We should take this fact into account especially in educational system.
Psychotrauma-prone are sensitive or hypersensitive people, run-down after suffering
from diseases, injuries or surgeries, people with low self-confidence.
To a certain extent it may be related to the inherent, genetic matter.
Sensitive personality even experiences psychotrauma if he had traumatized
someone else, though unwillingly, not on purpose.
Phases of psychotraumas being experienced at school
The first phase of adaptation syndrom, according to H. Sely, is an alarm, emergency
phase. It shows symptoms of strong excitation, hyperarousal.
The second phase of adaptation is a resistance.
An organism tries to get used to traumatizing, to adapt. There often occur obsessions
and intrusions during this phase.
The third phase of adaptation is exhaustion, which is a complex, hollistic failure
of adaptive and regulating organism mechanisms. It may results in a serious health or
life threat.
Prevention and therapy of psychotraumatizing at schools
Primary prevention of psychotraumatizing at school
Teachers and parents should be well-informed how to prevent from mental difficulties
and disorders of pupils, students and even teachers themselves, and how to build
healthy lifestyle and communication skills. Education promoting healthy lifestyle is
very important.
Secondary prevention of psychotraumatizing
Here belongs right diagnosis of difficulties and disorders caused by psychotraumatizing
at school, their remedies. Early diagnosis of psychosocial problems is a condition
of their adequate remedy. We recommend properly applied debriefing, crisis intervention,
counselling and psychotherapy.
Tertiary prevention of psychotraumatizing
The point is to prevent from further deterioration of the developed difficulty or
disorder, nevertheless, we should take into account that complex recovery is either very
difficult or impossible. There is also emphasized self-help, self-care, resocialization and
sociotherapy.
Quarternary prevention of psychotraumatizing
It involves identification of the developed and chronical difficulty or disorder,
which is not possible to correct totally, but at least it is possible to reduce some
results. What is important is a well-informed self-care and supportive social communication.
Psychosocial and pedagogical support and help after acute psychotraumatizing detection
First of all it is necessary to enable a traumatized person defusing, i.e. a chance
to confide to someone, to unbrace spontaneously in the interview, to free of accumulated
explosive emotions. It may even be laic social support of friends, classmates, colleagues
or relatives. Both a child and an adult, who experienced acute psychotraumatizing,
should have possibility to weep out, cry out, complain, swear, relax. It is not suitable
to persuade him that he should be brave, so that he can help himself without crying and
help of others.
An example of defusing, provided by an older sibling after a strong conflict of
a first-grader with her teacher. The pupil was told off because she prompted to her classmate
during a maths test. During the break she went to his brother, who was in higher
grade of the school. She told him everything while she was crying. Her brother stilled
her and told her: ,,Kačka, in the morning teacher got upset over something and unfortunately,
you caught it. Don´t bother about it. Everything is going to be all right again.
Just breathe deeply". He accompanied her to the classroom and helped her to prepare
teaching aids for the following lesson. After the break he went to his classroom. Kačka
expected the conflict to continue but a teacher behaved as if nothing had happened,
which suprised Kačka pleasantly.
Another suitable way is to enable traumatized persons debriefing, i.e. one-shot
official counsel (often group), where the traumatizing event is analysed and adequate
antitraumatizing intervention or corrective professional care are proposed.
Sometimes it is even necessary to provide professional and specialized antitraumatizing
intervention.
It involves long-term professional counselling or psychotherapeutical care,
which is realized by psychologists, psychiatrists, special and social educators. Sometimes
a solution may be to change a class or a school.
 

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