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By Christa Holtshausen

Being a therapist and a grade one teacher for many years, there are a few things I would like to mention that I have noticed when working with children.

Firstly: Children need to be content to learn. He/she needs to feel loved and wanted. In the classroom and at home. This makes learning so much easier.

Secondly: Children need to be motivated.

Thirdly: Children need space to develop their emotional needs.

In a normal classroom environment, it is not always easy for children to have these three things and due to our stressful social environment, these things are not always available at home.

How do we ensure that we include the above mentioned in our classrooms to allow children to learn more effectively?

If you think of yourself. All you want as an adult is to be loved, recognised and to be seen by the people around you. That is exactly what the children want too.

Being content, means that I could be myself in the environment where I am. I'm happy, I feel safe, and I don't feel the need to hide who I am. As a teacher, I need to make sure that my classroom is warm and welcoming for every child. Many a time, that is not the decorations on your wall, but more often the way you present yourself as a teacher to every child that enters your classroom. Do you use your body language and eye contact to show each student that you care about them? That’s what each child needs and so much more.

Children with special needs or children with learning obstacles have been in an environment that have mostly rejected them before they come to us. They were struggling. They were failing. Therefore, they did not feel content and we need to correct that.


If I'm not motivated, how am I going to learn? If there's nothing that motivates me, I'm not going to put in any effort . You as a teacher must find a way to motivate these children. There must be something for them to work towards and because they have been unsuccessful before, it will be more difficult to convince them of this. In my experience, one of the best ways to motivate learners is to give them an activity at the beginning of the lesson in which they will succeed. Should they fail, it is imperative to let them know that, that is OK too. Make sure they understand that if they didn't get it right, that we will try again and that you will support them. Slowly but surely, with the right modelling, they will succeed and not get upset or unmotivated with every unsuccessful task. They will start seeing that being successful means to keep on trying, working hard, and setting a goal that is not too high, but within their reach. As soon as this motivation kicks in, we can make it more and more difficult. And they will not feel unsafe or unloved...but content.

Emotional intelligence.

An important intelligence that we as human beings need but it often gets neglected. How do I use my emotional intelligence? We all get emotional, angry, we want to throw tantrums and so much more. A child that is not content or motivated has many emotional problems that go hand in hand with all the other little problems that they are experiencing in their everyday life. You need to make space in your classroom for those emotional outbursts, the tears, the frustration, the "I don't like it. I don't get it. I don't want to do it. I can't get it right, I'll never get it right, nobody cares, and I don't care". It is surely not an easy one, but when we handle it correctly and talk to them about those emotions, show them that it's not wrong, we equip them to better handle these emotions in the future.

Any child that is content, motivated, and emotionally happy will want to learn and that is what we want. We want them to seek their own learning path.

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