Why we need trained psychologists in schools
A psychologist's responsibility makes them an ever-approachable and accessible source of comfort and communication for students.
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"I never teach my pupils. I can only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn," said Albert Einstein. It makes one wonder as to what are the right conditions to improve learning outcomes. Can this be measured on a scale? Is it true that physical infrastructure alone defines the quality of education that a student receives?
These questions are difficult to answer and definitely need a great deal of extensive research. Here, we will focus on one of the most important aspects of providing the optimal conditions for students across time and space: an emotionally and mentally comforting space.
Students are constantly facing a rush of emotions while growing up, from exploring their identity, to dealing with changing bodies. (Representative photo: Reuters)
Yes, it’s true that this is a responsibility that is conventionally, and unmistakably delegated to teachers or parents. However, as we find ourselves in a world that is changing so rapidly, it becomes essential to acknowledge the instant disconnect that each generation is beginning to feel with another, due to the dynamically distinct society that each cohort finds itself in. In simpler words, it is difficult for one to empathise with someone whose social and contextual space is almost as different as being part of a whole other planet. In the same way that our language defines our worldview, our context defines our experiences and consequently our mental and emotional response to them.
In such cases, the importance of specialists becomes inevitable. Let’s take an example: There was a time when almost any ailment would be treated with herbs and home remedies. Eventually, allopathic medicines made their way into our lives. Even more recently, as we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, research began on ways to face the crisis. From isolation to medication to vaccines, solution pathways kept evolving and expanding. Yes, people are still relying on age-old herbal and home remedies, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t accept the need to trust research by experts and specialists to find a solution to this crisis.
Similarly, even if emotional proximity between teacher and student is high, it may not always be possible for the teacher to possess the tools required to work through all kinds of emotional and mental stressors that a child faces. Professional and specialised assistance can be complimented but not surrogated.
The importance of psychologists in schools is unparalleled. Students are constantly facing a rush of emotions while growing up: from exploring their identity to facing the pressures of societal norms on their blank-slate inquisitive minds, from changing bodies to negotiating ideologies, from learning new routes to fitting into conventional roots, moving outside the comfort of their homes and expanding their comfort zone to peers and mentors.
These and more life-defining changes happen faster than the rate at which children acquire the skills required to comprehensively analyse and settle with the idea of change. While a teacher’s approachability and accessibility depend on multiple factors and are contingent on various other duties, a psychologist’s role and responsibility compel them to be an ever-approachable and accessible source of comfort and communication.
More importantly, as we know, every child has different learning levels and needs. Neither is it possible for teachers to cater to each child’s needs individually nor is it possible for every child to effectively understand and express what their needs are. However, psychologists are equipped to understand cognitive differences and provide tools for negotiating with one’s surroundings and environment in the way most suited to individual capacities. Thus, a psychologist in school can be the necessary bridge between the inevitable gap that exists between teachers and students, irrespective of utmost effort on the part of both to stretch their own limits.
Apart from the need for a psychologist to tend to student needs, their presence is also important for teachers and non-teaching staff in schools. Often, we tend to overlook the emotional needs of those who are placed in positions of authority, management and mentoring. However, each person, irrespective of their position in society, is first and foremost, a human being with a complex set of emotions and experiences.
Teachers and non-teaching staff members, who are primarily responsible for providing a conducive environment for the holistic development of students, face their own day-to-day personal and professional struggles. It is imperative to acknowledge the importance of their peace of mind, which then filters down to students. Ultimately, it is our responsibility, following Einstein’s path, to provide the most fruitful conditions for our students to grow and develop, not just professionally or personally, but holistically.