HK teachers struggle to deal with students' emotional issues

Updated 2018-05-09 10:19:01 China Daily

(Image by CAI MENG/CHINA DAILY)

There are not enough school counselors to handle the problems typical among young people. Instead, the job falls to teachers, who lack the expertise to address the problem.

For many teachers in Hong Kong, the job has become little more than drudgery.

However, that's not a result of the long hours required to prepare good lessons, or the time spent in class, the endless staff meetings or supervision of extracurricular activities - but because the extra effort required to deal with troubled children can be soul destroying.

According to educators, the responsibility for handling students experiencing emotional trauma falls mainly on the teachers, who have little training in the field and scant resources to back them up.

Schools just don't have enough resources to help children undergoing emotional turmoil; especially in a traumatized climate where students all too often see no other option than self-harm and even suicide.

For example, when Andrew (not his real name), a 13-year-old student, started crying in class, his teacher's reaction was, "Oh no, not again."

The teacher, Cindy (not her real name), had dealt with an episode with Andrew the day before. It had taken hours to calm the boy down, and afterward she assumed that things would be OK. She was wrong.

Now, Andrew was troubled again, with Cindy silently praying, "Please, don't hurt yourself."

The boy was tormented. He'd started dating a girl in November 2016, and they were happy for a while, until the girl began avoiding Andrew and turning down invitations he made. Andrew tried to preserve the relationship, with no clue about what was really happening.

There were arguments in the hallways, and classmates would find Andrew weeping. The teachers read it as: "Andrew is in no mood for taking classroom notes."

Cindy, an English teacher with seven years' experience at a band three secondary school - the least prestigious academically - in Tin Shui Wai district, knew that Andrew was volatile and potentially a danger to himself.

She twice arranged for him to meet with a social worker, but was still perplexed about why her efforts to help were unsuccessful. "I almost doubted myself, and wondered whether it was worth talking with him for hours," Cindy said.

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