Missing the Point that Group Dynamics Determine Individual Behavior in Classrooms and Families

The feelings toward children aroused in teachers in the classroom are going to be rather intense and mostly unconscious. The group dynamic in the classroom is going to always arouse the most primitive kinds of feelings in teachers who are supposed to be the containers for the unmanageable aspects of those feelings, e.g., murderous rage. While it is normal and actually necessary for these feelings to be aroused in the course of any group's development, it is critically important for all that these responses be contained and responded to appropriately. There are precious few (if any now) teacher education programs that address these critically important issues in ways that would help newly minted teachers at the undergraduate and graduate level to be capable of dealing with these experiences effectively.

My background in psychology was unique in that I was based in the Colllege of Education at Temple but was permitted to take coursework in the Clinical Psychology program. i therefore got to take courses in group dynamics in the classroom and group development theory and application. These are not required courses in almost any teacher education and certification program in the USA.

I've had to sit with the headmasters of the lower and upper schools at my daughter's school on a somewhat regular basis in an effort to counteract the emotionally destructive behaviors that were being allowed to occur in my daughter's classes. They would always call in the school psychologist when I came to talk, who would then admit that they were unqualified to comment on the issues I was raising as they dealt with group processes and not individual behavior.

This is the distinction that is almost never made and is the critical failure of almost all educational environments, i.e., the unacknowledged reality that individual behavior is ALWAYS determined by group dynamics and NEVER the other way around. So, Elise's daughter's behavior in school (and at home) is best understood as being a function of the group environments in which she was raised and those of which she is now a member. This is not to exclude the physiological injury and neurological traumas these children sustain rather it is putting those traumas in context of the larger social systems in which they occurred.

These are some of the issues that I think bear discussion in this forum and are certainly a focus for the conversations I have with parents who are engaging in home-based neurofeedback training.

Marvin Berman PhD