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Key characteristics of the teacher‘s activity in respect to early prevention of school nonattendance

Liudmila Rupsienė
Klaipeda University, Lithuania

Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, University College Dublin, 7-10 September 2005

Abstract

The society began to pay more attention to the school nonattendance problem at the end of the XX century because school nonattendance is directly related to urgent social problems, such as, crime, drugs, unemployment, poverty, etc. Prevention of school nonattendance is important at both personal and social levels: on one hand, it is important to help the person to successfully integrate into the society, and on the other hand, the society must take care of its "health. The author of this paper is developing the researches in the dimension of the teacher’s activity in respect to prevention of school nonattendance in the context of the new educational paradigm, emphasizing the teacher’s responsibility for creation of conditions, favourable for self-realization of pupils, and aims to highlight the "key" characteristics of teachers’ activity in respect to early prevention of school nonattendance. We chose a non-structured, thorough interview as a research method. The interview respondents were 30 young people who, when studying at school, were extremely reluctant to studying, avoided going to school and skipped lessons.

Introduction

Prevention of school nonattendance and topicality of the research into it

School nonattendance can be defined as a phenomenon, which essential feature is the pupil’s resistance to the formal rules rejecting going to school. Such a rejection of going to school may be temporal or constant. The substantial difference between these two patterns of nonattendance is that exhibiting the first one, the pupil, though skipping some classes or several school days maintains his/her relations with the school and resumes going to school. The latter pattern of nonattendance refers to pupils, who leave school without finishing their studies (dropouts).

The school nonattendance problem is topical in all countries, realizing compulsory schooling. We can agree with Rubinstein’s (1969) statement, that this problem is a direct consequence of compulsory education. Just as soon as a certain state introduces Law on compulsory education the problem emerges: the number of children do not want to study, become truants, some of them drop out of general education schools and do not acquire the education, guaranteed to them by the state.

The society began to pay more attention to the school nonattendance problem at the end of the XX century. For example, in Great Britain the problems, related to school nonattendance, emerged in 1980-1990s. In Holland, according to Bos and Ruijters (1992), the society paid attention to school nonattendance in the early 1980s. In Lithuania we started to discuss school nonattendance actively after restoration of independence in 1991, although problems, related to school nonattendance had been investigated since 1960s already (for example, Bitinas, 1962; Rajeckas, 1966; Poškus, 1974; Stulpinas, 1976).

The UNO Convention on the rights of the child (1989) encourages the state members to take necessary measures, stimulating children to go to school constantly, and to reduce the number of dropouts. In the main educational acts of European countries and the USA, school nonattendance is referred to as one of the topical problems of school. Compulsory school attendance is established by means of the National Education Acts. The National Child and Family Codes establish parents’ obligation to take care of their child’s learning and regular school attendance.

Why is the society anxious so much about the problem of school nonattendance? The answers are given by the researches, investigating consequences of school nonattendance (for example, Schwartz, 1995; DeKalb, 1999; Overview of truancy, 1999; NCES, 2002; Harlow, 2003). The mentioned and some other researches show, that acquirement of education aids the person to integrate into the society more successfully, to find his/her place in this society realizing his/her potential opportunities. At the same time, we can clearly notice the opposite tendency: school nonattendance (thereby, acquiring no education) is directly related to urgent social problems, such as, crime, drugs, unemployment, poverty, etc. In the course of time, dropped out of school children become a great "trouble" and threat for individual members of the society and the society itself. Exhibition of truancy by a child is the first sign, testifying problems with his/her socialization and individualization. Truancy shows the child’s parents, teachers and the community, that the child is not well and needs help at this stage of his life. Hence, prevention of school nonattendance is important at both personal and social levels: on one hand, it is important to help the person to successfully integrate into the society, and on the other hand, the society must take care of its "health".

According to Hoyle (1998), since the very emergence of the problem of school nonattendance, researches in this field have two basic trends, namely:

  1. School nonattendance as an outcome of individual psychopathology of "incompetent" parents (for example, Reid, 1987), deviants’ disability (for example, Denney, 1974), disability of children, experiencing school phobia (for example, Chazan, 1962);

  2. Solution of the problem of school nonattendance, striving to reduce the extent of this phenomenon (for example, Hargreaves, 1984) or return the truants back to the "normal" condition, so that they would normally attend school again (for example, Murgatroyd and Pickles, after Reid, 1987). According to Hoyle (1998) the latter researches influence education policy and decisions of the state in respect to solution of this problem.

By the research, presented in this paper, we tried to develop the second trend of researches in the problem of school nonattendance, because this second trend is directed towards prevention of the phenomenon of school nonattendance.

Word "prevention" originates from Latin word "praevenio", meaning to forestall, to anticipate. The word "prevention" is widely used in scientific and everyday language in various contexts, such as, medicine, law, social work, ecology, economics, education, psychology, management, etc. (for example, prevention of crimes, prevention of corruption, prevention of allergy, prevention of suicides, prevention of genocide, prevention of money laundering, etc.).

Prevention is a whole of actions, taken in order to guarantee healthy, safe and efficient life (http://www.americanoutreach.org). Prevention is actions, taken in order to either reduce or eliminate psychological, social or other conditions, causing physical, mental disorders or socioeconomic problems. They are actions or an activity, guaranteeing safety, health, self-dependence, healthy behaviour, as well as helping to reduce or control the risks of diseases, disabilities and dysfunction (http://www.caction.org ).

The concept of prevention is one of the basic concepts of social education. In the Dictionary of Social Pedagogy (Словарь по социальной педагогике, 2002) preventive social pedagogical work is described as a professional social pedagogical activity, aiming at forestalling person’s negative behaviour, negative expression, development of negative features and intensification of negative habits. In the Dictionary of Pedagogical Terms (Jovaiša, 1993, p.183) prevention is described as "a general name for various educational methods, used in order to anticipate the events, incompatible with moral and juridical norms. Preventive upbringing is necessary for the children, who tend to communicate with delinquent friends, to give in to negative influence, who are impulsive".

Prevention is divided into several levels or stages, depending on the time, when intervention into the phenomenon takes place. The scientific literature and practice distinguish primary, secondary and tertiary stages. On the other hand, distinguishing of early and late prevention is also commonly used. It is unambiguously acknowledged, that the primary (or early) prevention is the most effective one, because it helps to prevent emergence of the phenomenon at the very beginning. By means of early prevention they seek to eliminate the conditions, provoking emergence of the phenomenon.

In this paper the early prevention of school nonattendance at general education school is understood as strategic interventions of headmasters, teachers and social pedagogues into the process of education of the whole schoolchildren’s community with pupils, who have already become truants, aiming at reduction of the number of cases of school nonattendance and the extent of the phenomenon of school nonattendance by means of elimination of reasons, provoking school nonattendance and introduction of measures, stimulating to go to school.

Dimension of teachers’ activity in respect to prevention of school nonattendance

As we can see from the conception presented above, there are several dimensions of prevention of school nonattendance. One of them is the dimension of teachers’ activity, which is examined in this paper. The teacher is one of the most significant people in the pupil’s life; the teacher’s activity can either strengthen the pupil’s motivation to study or, on the contrary, alienate the pupils from learning and the school. Therefore, it is important to reveal peculiarities of the teachers’ activity, forestalling school nonattendance or hindering spreading of this phenomenon.

Researches, related to the dimension of the teacher’s activity, are the most popular in the field of education science. These researches root in educational philosophy, therefore the trends of researches in problems, related to the dimension of the teacher’s activity, are, first of all, distinguished on the basis of the educational paradigm. There are two well-known basic educational paradigms, namely, a classical one and a new one.

The classical educational paradigm interprets education as imparting of summarized experience of the society to the pupils. This paradigm is based on philosophic theories of idealism, realism, neothomism and materialism. Educational conceptions, based on these philosophic theories, appeared in the XVII-XVIII centuries and were established, though competing each other, in the XIX century. In the XX and early XXI centuries their development has been influenced by new philosophic trends. Within the recent centuries besides the classical educational paradigm began to form a new educational paradigm. Forming of this paradigm is related to spreading of the ideas of natural education. In Lithuania these ideas did not root in the XX century, because, due to the communistic ideology, it was impossible during the soviet years. Meanwhile, in the countries of Western Europe and the USA these ideas widely established, challenging the classical educational paradigm.

Nowadays the sphere of the educational research in Lithuania is distinguished by a specific combination of the new and the classical educational paradigms, thus, while the classical educational paradigm is still wider used in practice, the new paradigm is spreading with development of the education science. It is necessary to clearly realize both common and peculiar features of these two trends of researches. These features are very well revealed by Bitinas (2000). He explains, that the common features of the both trends of researches are acknowledgment of the facts that the child is an individuality, that education must be constructed in such a way, that the pupil could live in the society, that the teacher manages the educational process and that education is based on the educational interaction. According to Bitinas, the essential difference between these two trends is the way they answer the question about what the education must be based on: child’s individuality or needs of the society. When creating a theoretical basis for his research, the researcher always has to choose only one of these alternatives.

In the highly-developed countries school established as an educational institution in the XX century. Within this century countries, one after another, adopted education acts, providing for compulsory schooling. Due to many reasons establishment of school was influenced by the philosophy of realism. The two others classical philosophies, namely, neothomism and idealism, did not have such a considerable impact on schools in the XX century. The realistic school was orientated to education of obedient executors; it functioned as an institution for imparting of summarized experience of the humanity, where the educational process was organized through the high-level teaching of subjects, the best teaching methods were considered to be those, helping pupils to remember the knowledge better, and the best teacher was the one able to impart the knowledge best. The classical paradigm investigated the dimension of the teacher’s activity in respect to prevention of school nonattendance aiming to answer the question "Which is the best way for the teacher to impart his knowledge so, that pupils could remember it better?"

In the majority of states, they tried to "reform" the children, avoiding learning, by means of measures, provided for in the statutes, namely, punishments, reprimands, psychiatric treatment. Most often such a "reforming" did not have any positive results. Therefore, they have started searching for other ways to solve this problem, relating them to the new educational paradigm.

In Lithuania this process has lingered due to political situation in the country. Many years, while Lithuania was incorporated in the USSR, solving of various scientific educational problems (including those, related to school nonattendance) was closely related to development of Russian science. Before restoration of independence, Lithuanian scientists were prompted to keep within soviet ideology. Scientific ideas, developed in the West, were usually declared to be bourgeois and inappropriate for the Soviet people; therefore the influence of these ideas on the researches of Lithuanian scientists was considerably restricted.

Within the Soviet years children’s learning was considered as a social obligation, as a specific form of activity, significant to the society. They stated that when learning, a child takes part in life of the society. Therefore, the main suggestion to solve the problem was following: a child must understand and "accept" learning as an activity, significant to the society, he must not only understand importance of education, but also have a strong cognitive interest (Божович, 1995). Therefore a lot of attention was paid to revealing and explanation of the obligation to learn. According to Podlasyi, as long ago as in 1980s there was the only main way, recommended for the pedagogue in the USSR to encourage students to learn, namely, explaining social significance of learning to students (Подласый, 1999).

At the same time in the USSR were spread researches in development of pupils’ cognitive interest, because problems of school nonattendance were related to lack of cognitive interest. Then they thought, that development of students’ cognitive interest aided to create a positive attitude to the educational process, teacher’s actions, school tasks, self-dependent learning activity (Щукина, 1971; Rajeckas, 1966, Poškus, 1974, Juška, 1976 et al.).

At the end of the XX century Lithuanian scientists were influenced not only by classical, but also by a new educational paradigm – their researches broke the framework of the classical educational paradigm. The new educational paradigm sees the teacher’s role absolutely differently from the classical one. The teacher is considered not as an imparter of knowledge, but as a free personality, deciding himself what and how to teach. "The teacher teaches what students are able to learn and what they want to learn, he explains to the students until they understand", comments on the teacher’s role Bitinas (2000, p.161). This peculiarity of the teacher’s work creates a free, warm teaching/learning atmosphere and increases teachers’ responsibility in respect to parents. When teaching (choosing aims, contents and methods) the teacher must take into consideration his pupils’ motivation to study and their experience.

The influence of the newest educational paradigm is clearly seen in researches by Laužikas. They withdraw from the classical conception of a teacher as an imparter of knowledge, and turn to the pupil, his experiences and individuality. Pedagogues must perceive the student’s individuality and do their best to adjust the educational process to it (Laužikas, 1974, 1993).

In 1981 a group of scientists, including Paurienė, Barkauskaitė, Uzdila, Gylienė, Gedvilas, Giedrienė, Meškauskaitė, Ramanauskas et al., headed by Laužikas, performed a large-scale complex research. They established, that striving to improve the teaching process at school, teachers should pay a special attention to their relationship with pupils, basing this relationship on a constructive interaction.

Researches by Lithuanian scientists in the trend of the new educational paradigm were not an exception in the USSR. Some Russian scientists also advocated the new paradigm and strived to break out of the "grip" of the classical school (for example, Славина, 1958; Ефимова, 1985; Маркова, Матис, Орлов, 1990; Гусева, 1997).

The author of this paper is developing the researches in the dimension of the teacher’s activity in respect to prevention of school nonattendance in the context of the new educational paradigm, emphasizing the teacher’s responsibility for creation of conditions, favourable for self-realization of pupils, and aims to highlight the "key" characteristics of teachers’ activity in respect to early prevention of school nonattendance.

Methodology

We chose a non-structured, thorough interview as a research method (Polit, Hungler, 1995). It is used as a measure to understand complex (generalized) people’s behaviour, without beforehand dividing the respondents into categories and implementing any other limitations of the research.

The interview respondents were young people who, when studying at school, were extremely reluctant to studying, avoided going to school, sometimes skipped lessons. However, they managed to cope with this augmentative problem. Sampling of these young people can be defined as purposive nonstochastic. We applied two sampling criterions as follow: 1) nonsystematic truancy, school nonattendance; 2) coping with the problem of school nonattendance and finishing school.

The total number of participants of the research was 30 young people from various towns of Lithuania. Their age ranged from 19 to 27 years old. Two thirds of the respondents were men.

The primary question of the interview was When did you feel the first signals of reluctance in respect to going to school? Among additional questions were following: Why did it happen? What events at school was it related to? What, in your opinion, provoked your wish not to attend school? How did you manage to solve this problem? What teachers helped you to cope with this problem? What "key" characteristics can such teachers be distinguished by? What are essential peculiarities of work of such teachers?

The author of the paper interprets impediments to prevention of school nonattendance as peculiarities of teachers’ activity, hindering other prevention executors to perform preventive activity.

Perception of impediments to early prevention of school nonattendance is important, aiming to enforce prevention of school nonattendance. Knowing factors provoking school nonattendance and those, which do not let to forestall school nonattendance, teachers can evaluate their work with pupils critically and change their behaviour, eliminating reasons, stimulating emergence of the problem of school nonattendance.

Each of the analyzed cases is unique in some respects. However, at the same time each case is similar to the others. Therefore, analyzing empirical data, the author focused on the common elements of the cases.

Findings

"Key" impediments to early prevention school nonattendance at school activity

Many respondents indicated that at primary school they studied rather well. Problems began at the 5th form together with introduction of subject teaching. Suddenly, performance in all or some of the subjects became poorer. 24 of 30 respondents state that it was the time when they started being reluctant to study and absent from lessons more and more often.

Explaining reasons for such behaviour the first matter respondents emphasize is not difficulties in learning the subjects, but the way their teacher taught them, especially the aspect of relationship. Unfortunately, analysis of texts of the interview let us reveal the fact that during the school years only one or a few teachers made a good impression to the respondents. The respondents emphasized negative relationship with their teachers, reducing their motivation to study. They say "You could count good teacher on the fingers of one hand. The others act grand, clever and almighty. Shorten their own and the others’ life."

The texts of the interview show, that communicating with teachers of the subjects they did not like, students, who became reluctant to study, felt tense, anxious, offended and humiliated. The teachers’ preachments, indications and critical assessments "destroyed" them. The students felt especially bad beside teachers, who tried to show their superiority.

It should be noted, that the same pupils, who had already had problems with school attendance, could be open at the lessons of other – "good" (according to the respondents) – teachers, where they bravely expressed their opinion, felt needful, useful, important in the class, felt that teachers trusted them (just like good people). They knew, that the teacher would always accept them what they were, would understand and help them. At the lessons of "good" teachers even problematic in respect to school attendance pupils endeavoured to learn.

Hence, we can state, that impediments to early prevention of school nonattendance are rooted in negative relationship of many teachers with their pupils, which are distinguished by teachers’ preachments, indications, critical assessments, unwillingness to understand their pupils, to help them, avoidance of creation of favourable conditions for frank communication and brave expression of one’s opinion, making pupils feel useless, unimportant, unworthy trust and respect.

Analysis of texts of the interview aided to reveal such an essential impediment to early prevention of school nonattendance as low assessment of pupils (see picture 1).

Picture 1. Low assessment of pupils as an essential impediment to prevention of school nonattendance

Low assessment of pupils is dual. It includes low assessment of pupils’ learning, on one hand, and low assessment of their personalities, on the other. When the teacher does not appreciate pupil’s learning, he/she disregards the pupil’s endeavour to study better and to achieve better results, willfully writes worse marks, does not call the pupil out during the lessons and does not want to see the pupil’s progress. Consequences of low assessment of pupils’ personalities are criticizing in public, behaving in haughty manner, offence and emphasizing of negative features. In both cases low assessment is an impediment to prevention of school nonattendance.

These generalizations have been made, basing on the analysis of cases, taken from texts of the interview. Below we present two examples of the texts of the interview, illustrating the way the low assessment of pupils hinder early prevention of school nonattendance.

X participant of the interview. Mother has taken measures to transfer her girl to another class in the 10th form. Mother thought, that in another class pupils, showing better results, will encourage her daughter to catch up with the rest. At the beginning of the school year the girl endeavoured to learn, but in her attempts she was often discouraged due to problems with her mathematics teacher. However, the girl was ambitious; she did not want to give up and was trying hard to overcome the difficulties, taking additional lessons with a tutor. When showing a better progress in mathematics, she started getting higher marks in all the other subjects as well. However, the mathematics teacher remained biassed in her assessments of the girl. After this "injustice" the girl started to neglect her studies and lessons with her tutor again, began skipping lessons. Her hatred for this teacher was stronger than her wish to study.

In this case the pupil had a strong motivation to study. It is confirmed by the following facts: 1) the pupil went to the class, which was "stronger" in respect to studying results, hoping to study better; 2) the pupil additionally worked with a tutor, aiming at better progress. Soon the stronger motivation to study gave positive results and the girl’s marks in all subjects became higher. However, the mathematics teacher disregarded the pupil’s endeavour to study better. The pupil formed an attitude, that the teacher did not assess her knowledge objectively, to be more precise, the teacher assessed her lower, than the pupil was worth. Seeing that her endeavour did not give the expected results and that the teacher willfully assessed her low, the pupil started to hate the teacher, lost her motivation to learn mathematics. Hence, in this case, inadequately low assessment of the pupil’s learning can be interpreted as an essential impediment to prevention of school nonattendance – the strategy of the mathematics teacher’s activity reduced the pupil’s motivation to study, provoked the pupil’s resistance to studying and school nonattendance.

X participant of the interview. I started to endeavour, but all my attempts were in vain. I was already fallen in the teachers’ opinion and it was very hard to get a better mark. Even when I raised my hand, wishing to answer, the teacher called out pupils, showing better progress, anyway. Such teachers’ behaviour insulted me, therefore I did not learn at all…<>… Nobody helped me. My parents also did not pay attention at me anymore. I tried to help me myself. It was striving for good marks and it stimulated me to overcome reluctance to study, because I dreamt of joining the police. I wanted to be a policeman, but my dream did not come true. It is my own fault, because I became a bad pupil and teachers did not give me a chance to reform.

In this case we can see, that the pupil had a rather strong motivation to study: he tried to study well, strived to get a better mark, wanted to answer and show teachers his knowledge. However, it seemed to the pupil, that the teachers did not want to help him and assessed his learning inadequately low, because he was "fallen" "in their opinion" and was a "bad" pupil. Inadequately low assessment of the pupil’s endeavour was confirmed by the teachers’ actions as follow: the teachers did not call him out, disregarded his endeavour to study better and did not give him a chance to reform. The pupil tried to help him himself, but did not see any support from the people around, so disappointed, he joined the ranks of pupils, avoiding going to school. Therefore, in this case, teachers’ actions can as well be interpreted as essential impediments to the prevention of school nonattendance.

Below you will find two examples of texts of the interview, illustrating how low assessment of pupils’ personalities hinder early prevention of school nonattendance:

X participant of the interview. Reluctance to study emerged in the 9th form. The prevailing reason was "friction" with some teachers. The reluctance to study became obviously stronger after an insult, experienced from a teacher in front of the whole class during one mathematics lesson. The situation was worsened by the fact, that the mathematics teacher was the pupil’s form-master. Hence, the girl had nobody, to whom she could apply for understanding, support and aid. When the marks in other subjects became poorer too, the girl started to feel pressure of her family. They always compared her sister’s good progress with the poor hers. Then the girl decided not to learn at all, started to conflict with her teachers, school administration and family. She avoided being at home, skipped lessons, started to communicate with having a not very good reputation teenagers.

This case illustrated how devaluation of the pupil’s personality pushed her into the ranks of pupils, who do not attend school. The worst if the fact, that the pupil was humiliated by her closest people in her family and at school, namely: 1) by her form-master – an especially significant teacher in the pupils’ life, because most frequently it is the form-master who communicates with pupils closest and supports them at critical situations in their life at school; 2) by her family – her closest people. The form-master humiliated the pupil in front of the whole class, and the parents devaluated their daughter constantly comparing her with her sister, showing better progress. As we can see, it is the humiliation of the personality, which has become an essential impediment to prevention of school nonattendance, because we can create a clear chain from the pupil’s narration, as follows: humiliation of the pupil’s personality in front of the whole class → worse learning results → devaluation by the family → avoiding going to school.

X participant of the interview. My favourite subject of history became disgusting to me only due to the teacher. After I had not answered the material a couple of times, I became the stupidest of all the stupid and had to listen to morals. Since then I could never express my opinion, it seemed, she was just waiting for the chance to show me my place for the rest of my life. Nobody reckoned either with my opinion or with me myself. All the time I felt that I was somebody lower, contemptible in comparison with them. And, moreover, I had to understand early, that the teacher’s authority was indisputable, because, otherwise your marks would "suffer".

This case also illustrates the fact, that devaluation of the personality is an essential impediment to early prevention of school nonattendance. The pupil was devaluated as a personality: at the lesson the teacher made the pupil feel stupid, lower, and contemptible. Then the pupil scared to express his opinion, to be shown "his place for the rest of (his) life". Such a teacher’s behaviour caused the pupil’s disgust to the subject she was teaching and reduced the motivation to study, becoming the essential impediment to early prevention of school nonattendance.

Positive "key" factors of early prevention of school nonattendance in the teachers‘ activity

We asked the respondents to remember one teacher, who, in their opinion, was good, and to explain why this teacher was good. Analysing texts of the interview we aimed at establishment of positive "key" characteristics, which, according to pupils, are peculiar to a "good" teacher. Below you will find several most informative extracts of the texts of the interview and comments on them. Other texts of the interview repeated teachers’ "key" characteristics; therefore we do not present them in the paper.

X participant of the interview. There was only one teacher, whom I remember with a great respect and love. She smiled all the time. She addressed all the pupils by their names. She never insulted us, never scoffed at us. Despite she was very strict, even considerably stricter than the others, we were greatly ashamed to come to her lesson without due preparation. Before her lesson, which was only once a week, I cleaned my shoes, because she looked so neat: so smart, with a hair-dress, a costume and the only accessory – a watch… If now I have anything good inside, it is only thanks to her…<>… she talked to everyone as an equal. She never lost her temper. She showed her interest in everyone: asked how we felt, why looked so sad or why we missed several lessons; regardless of the pupils’ marks or conduct. However, we couldn’t even try to copy from each other, she saw all of us. She forced us to accept neither her advice, nor her attitudes. And what an expert in her subject she was!

The respondent remembered one "good" teacher with great respect and love. The respondent respected this teacher so much, that he felt ashamed not to prepare for the lesson she was teaching. Out of respect for the teacher he wanted to look smart before her lessons (even cleaned his shoes). The respondent has distinguished the "key" "good" teacher’s characteristics as follow:

  • smiles all the time;

  • calls pupils by their names;

  • talks to everyone as an equal;

  • is interested in everyone as a person (why he is sad, why he was absent several times);

  • all the pupils are equally important to her and respected by her, regardless of their marks and conduct;

  • never insults pupils, scoffs at them, does not force to accept any attitudes and advice;

  • an expert in her subject;

  • strict (even considerably stricter than the others);

  • does not allow pupils to copy from each other;

  • looks perfect (smart, with a hair-dress, a costume, accessories);

  • never loses her temper.

  • X participant of the interview. All good teachers have features in common. They walk with smiles on their faces, understand humour, do not try to pass taking no notice of their pupils, sometimes greet you first, speak to you first, praise you for your brightly coloured hair, nice earring in your ear. They are able to control the class during the lesson, do not let any one tread on their neck, take part in various events, and frankly express their opinion. You will always tell them from the others. They and children just perfectly understand each other.

    In this case the research participant indicated the „key" „good" teacher‘s characteristics as follow:

  • smiles all the time („walk with smiles on their faces");

  • understands humour;

  • communicates frankly;

  • is interested in pupils as personalities („speaks" to them, praises their appearance);

  • is able to control the class during the lesson („do not let anybody tread on their neck");

  • takes part in various events;

  • understands pupils.

  • X participant of the interview. Nobody said any bad word about her. She knew how to communicate with us, because she really cared about us and we knew that, though the teacher had never said this aloud. She was not a teacher working for money only. She loved all of us: loved as children, not as pupils.

    This respondent distinguished the „key" „good" teacher‘s characteristics as follow:

  • knows how to communicate with pupils;

  • a „good" teacher cares about pupils and the pupils feel this care;

  • works not for money only;

  • loves pupils.

  • X participant of the interview. This teacher inspired me with her encouragements, let me feel more self-reliant. She always noticed not only me and my problems, but also every pupil in the class. She did not hide her joy and pride of her pupils, showed these feelings to her pupils. She never humiliated pupils, did not punish them for their mistakes, but stimulated.

    This research participant indicates the „key" „good" teacher‘s characteristics as follow:

  • encourages, stimulates and inspires pupils;

  • grants her pupils self-reliance;

  • notices every pupil and his/her problems;

  • feels glad and proud of her pupils;

  • never humiliates her pupils and does not punish them for their mistakes.

  • X participant of the interview. They all were very serious, cared only about their subjects and were not interested in pupils’ life, their problems. And she was absolutely different. She was just a nice, understanding person. She did not limit to communication, related to the subject, only, she was able to get closer to us. Sometimes, not warning anybody, she brought a cake to her lesson. We studied half of the lesson and the rest of the time we were drinking tea and discussing topics, important to us, pupils, i.e. personal plans, dreams, favourite music, etc.

    In this case the research participant emphasizes the "key" "good" teacher‘s characteristics as follow:

  • just a nice person;

  • understands the others;

  • is able to get closer to pupils and maintain informal relationship with them;

  • devotes some time for informal communication during the lessons and after them.

  • X participant of the interview. Such teachers do not pick out pupils, they teach all the pupils in the same way, and, I can say, try to help less gifted ones. Moreover, they communicate with pupils, and not only at school, but also beyond it. In my opinion, they just dedicate themselves to their work. A good teacher is distinguished not only by good knowledge of his/her subject, authority among pupils, but also a kind of intimacy, i.e. knowing, that you can always come up to the teacher and not be afraid of telling him/her what depresses or worries you, not scare to ask, suggest.

    This extract of the text of the interview helps to reveal some more "key" "good" teacher‘s characteristics as follow:

  • tries to help a less gifted pupil;

  • dedicates himself/herself to his/her job;

  • has deep knowledge of his/her subject.

  • Summarizing "key" "good" teacher‘s characteristics, indicated by all the research participants, we can divide them into 3 groups:

    1. Characteristics in respect to relationship with pupils: *love pupils (work, loving their pupils, dedicate themselves to their work, despite their salaries); *are interested in pupils and care about them (are interested in each pupil as a personality, notice each pupil and his/her problems, call pupils by their names, a „good" teacher cares about pupils and the pupils feel this care); *understand pupils; * encourage and stimulate pupils (arouse motivation, inspire self-reliance and wish to do good jobs, support pupils at critical moments); *respect all the pupils (talk to everyone as an equal; all pupils, regardless their marks and conduct, are equally important for them and respected by them, never insult pupils, scoff at them, do not force them to accept their attitudes or advice, do not humiliate the pupils or punish them for their mistakes); *feel glad and proud of their pupils.

    2. Characteristics in respect to imparting/acquiring knowledge: *know their subject well, *are able to control the class, *are strict (sometimes even considerably stricter than the others, do not allow pupils to copy from each other).

    3. Personal characteristics: *look well, have a nice appearance (smart, with a hair-dress, a costume, appropriate accessories); *communicate frankly; *control themselves (never lose their temper); *optimistic (smile a lot and understand humour); *have a lot of interests (are keen on various spheres of life and take part in various events).

    The research established, that pupils, having problems with school attendance, most frequently indicate the "good" teachers’ characteristics of the first group as essential ones. It means that in teachers’ activity they consider the aspect of relationship with pupils to be the most important. They are positive relationship between teachers and pupils (love, understanding, respect, encouragement, stimulation and care) that motivate pupils to study and act as an essential factor of early prevention of school nonattendance.

    Conclusions

    1. We established, that impediments to early prevention of school nonattendance are rooted in negative relationship of many teachers with their pupils, which are distinguished by teachers’ preachments, indications, critical assessments, unwillingness to understand their pupils, to help them, avoidance of creation of favourable conditions for frank communication and brave expression of one’s opinion, making pupils feel useless, unimportant, unworthy trust and respect.

    2. We revealed the essential impediment to early prevention of school nonattendance, which is low assessment of pupils. Low assessment of pupils is dual. It includes low assessment of pupils’ learning, on one hand, and low assessment of their personalities, on the other. When the teacher does not appreciate pupil’s learning, he/she disregards the pupil’s endeavour to study better and to achieve better results, willfully writes worse marks, does not call the pupil out during the lessons and does not want to see the pupil’s progress. Consequences of low assessment of pupils’ personalities are criticizing in public, behaving in haughty manner, offence and emphasizing of negative features. In both cases low assessment is an impediment to prevention of school nonattendance.

    3. We revealed three positive "key" characteristics of the teacher’s activity in respect to early prevention of school nonattendance as follow:

    4. We revealed, that in respect to early prevention of school nonattendance the most important characteristics of the teacher‘s activity are those, describing relationship between teachers and pupils. They are positive relationship between teachers and pupils (love, understanding, respect, encouragement, stimulation and care) that motivate pupils to study and act as an essential factor of early prevention of school nonattendance.

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    This document was added to the Education-Line database on 20 October 2005