Psychological counselling for teachers a key solution to address school violence

October 14, 2023 - 09:33
Schools should not be a place where teachers used violence to express themselves or release their stress, but rather a place where fundamental moral values were upheld through proper and civilised behaviour, experts have said.
A class at Nguyễn Gia Thiều High School, a prestigious and high-quality school in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

HÀ NỘI — Many educators and experts have raised their concerns over numerous incidents of school violence and inappropriate behaviours between teachers and students in recent times, which seriously affected the well-being of students and ethical standards of teachers.

They said providing psychological counselling for teachers, together with enhancing their pedagogical skills and professional development, could be a solution to create a healthy educational environment.

In the first month of the new school year, several cases of school violence have occurred with teachers using violence against students.

A student at Đa Phúc High School in Sóc Sơn District in Hà Nội was physically handled by her teacher simply because she did not bring the correct type of birthday cake as instructed. Even when the student displayed signs of shock and fainting, the teacher's criticism did not cease. Ironically, the teacher was responsible for the subject of civic education and academic counseling at the school.

In another case in Hà Nội, an English teacher at Phan Huy Chú High School in Thạch Thất District verbally and physically abused a student.

Both teachers have been suspended from teaching. The English teacher has even resigned.

These are just two among many incidents of violence involving teachers and students at schools. These incidents have affected the physical and psychological well-being of students but also tarnished the ethical standards of the teaching profession, eliciting public outrage.

Suspending and reassigning teachers is only a short-term solution to this issue. It is crucial to identify the root causes and implement fundamental measures for preventing school violence at an early stage.

Image extracted from the video clip of a student being abused by her teacher at Đa Phúc High School in Sóc Sơn District in Hà Nội.

Trần Văn Quang, a teacher from Lương Thế Vinh High School in Hà Nội, said that during class, teachers should not only focus on imparting knowledge but also on managing and handling unexpected situations.

In cases where students misbehave or neglect homework, teachers should provide guidance and reminders to encourage serious learning. However, it was essential to be patient with students, especially in terms of their physical well-being, he said.

Dr Chu Cẩm Thơ, head of Education Research and Evaluation Department under Vietnam Institute of Educational Sciences, said this situation was distressing for the education sector.

Despite the numerous measures taken, the occurrence of such incidents indicated a gap between teachers’ awareness and correct actions. Implementing sanctions after an incident occurred was too late, as most teachers who engaged in such behavior might not realise the consequences awaiting them.

Therefore, she said, there was a need to establish methods for reducing school violence.

“In the context of changes in society and educational goals today, schools must change their culture to build a model of a happy school. Teachers need to prepare themselves mentally and develop the skills required to prevent all forms of violence, physical and psychological, against students. If teachers stick to outdated approaches and believe that students will behave better through punishment, it's a mistake. It's time for a new approach to education," she emphasised.

Psychological counselling for teachers

In reality, it's not only students but also teachers who often experience mental stress from their work and need opportunities to share their burdens.

According to research from the National Academy of Education Management in 2022, nearly 60 per cent of teachers displayed signs of work-related stress, 35-40 per cent showed symptoms of work-related anxiety disorders, and a smaller percentage exhibited early signs of depression. With increased workload and mounting pressure, a space for sharing is necessary for every teacher.

Meanwhile, school psychology counselling mainly focused on addressing students' issues and often neglected the well-being of teachers.

Bùi Lê Xuân Trang, a teacher at Vĩnh Xuân High School in Trà Ôn District in southern Vĩnh Long Province, is honoured for helping students unite and achieve high academic results. — VNA/VNS Photo Lê Thúy Hằng

In every school, there should be suggestion boxes where students could convey their thoughts at any time. School psychology counselling rooms should always be open to students when they face difficulties and pressure. However, providing psychological counseling for teachers is almost ignored.

This is an issue that schools need to urgently address because a happy school environment could only be fostered when both teachers and students are genuinely cared for and their concerns are shared.

Dr Nguyễn Thành Nam, deputy rector of the Hanoi National University of Education, said he believed happy teachers could change the world.

Nam said mental health has become a central focus for the World Health Organization in 2023. In professions like teaching, taking care of mental health was even more critical because the behaviours of teachers served as a model and directly influenced students. Therefore, protecting the mental health of teachers was important.

According to Nam, academic counselling should not only focus on students but also include strategies to help teachers become better, make parents happier and exhibit appropriate behaviours when their children return home from school. School principals should also be happy to become spiritual leaders, allowing teachers to feel comfortable and students to be loved and safe.

Dr Nguyễn Chí Thành, head of the Faculty of Pedagogy at the Hanoi National University of Education, said every teacher was a moral exemplar, and their happiness could create a generation of happy students. Good mental health was a prerequisite for inspiring teachers to radiate positive energy to their students.

Thành said schools were more inclined to provide psychological support to students. In the future, specific regulations regarding psychological counselling for teachers should be incorporated into official guidelines.

A shortage of conflict resolution skills of teachers when dealing with various situations was one of the factors contributing to school violence. Therefore, enhancing pedagogical skills and professional development for teachers was necessary, not only when they were in the classroom but also during their university education, he added.

The relationship between teachers and students was unique, involving not just the transmission of knowledge but also the nurturing of love, trust, and emotions. Therefore, schools should not be a place where teachers used violence to express themselves or release their stress, but rather a place where fundamental moral values were upheld through proper and civilised behaviour, he stressed. — VNS