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The hypochondriac kid - how to treat them?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by PeggyDee, Apr 11, 2012.

  1. PeggyDee

    PeggyDee New commenter

    I am a student teacher and just completed my second placement at a boys secondary school.
    I'm wondering what is the best strategy for dealing with a hypochondriac pupil. At this school I had one pupil who complained every single lesson and asked for permission to go to the medical room. His aches and pains were always invisible (i.e not requiring proof) - a headache, a tummy ache, even his scratches and bruises were invisible although if he spent long enough rubbing a spot he could raise a slight redness in his skin. If he made it to the end of the lesson he suddently felt 'much better'. He would usually arrive in the classroom already complaining, but if not on arrival then the aches and pains would suddenly materialise when there was work to be done.
    As I was only placed at the school for the short 5 week half term before easter I did not know the pupils very well. For the first few time I allowed him permission to go to the medical room but discussed him with my mentor, just to ask if he had known health issues or anything we should be concerned about. She told me there are no known concerns about his health or welfare but to keep an eye on him. That was when I discovered that his ailments always appeared at work time.
    I found this pupil really irritating because he would often interrupt my teaching or when I was assisting another pupil to tell me his problems. When he actually tried to do some work I was pleased and would try discuss it with him but the conversation would soon turn to his sore finger (which prevented him writing) or his sore leg (which prevented him being able to sit) or his sore eyes (because his mum packed his incorrect pair of glasses today) or his sore head or ...... Needless to say I got very little written work out of him for assessment. I got little out of him verbally because he would be asking half way through answering a question and come down with tummy ache.
    I believe the complaints were delay or distraction tactics to get out of work, or even better, to get out of the lesson. But what if they weren't? How do you tell a genuine problem from a made up one? How do you deal with the hypochondriac who constantly interrupts and distracts your lessons? As a trainee I think the pupil was trying to get one over on me and I don't have years of experience or kids of my own to know when it is serious. Also as I was only placed there for 5 weeks I did not know the kids very well, and I feel that if this happened at a school where I am permamently employed I would be discussing this problem with his parents. I did not get the opportunity for that this time.
  2. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    I think you've answered your own question:
    It might be interesting to find out why you were advise to keep an eye on him though.
  3. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    If you are sure there is nothing wrong then treat the behaviour as you would any other disruption. If you believe he is trying to get out of work and disrupts the lesson to do so, then this is totally unacceptable and there should be consequences.

    Your finger hurts and you can't write? Ok come back at lunchtime and do the work, you finger will be better then.

    You have a tummy ache? Ok sit quietly for now and do the work if you feel better, but I'm sure you'll want to catch up later. So I'll ring home to let your parents know you were poorly and will be bringing the work home to do if you feel better this evening.

    If he interrupts the input then deal with it as you would any other disruption. Name on the board or warning or whatever the school system is. You will know if it is an immediate emergency.
  4. In my final placement, I had a student who "felt ill" every single lesson too. Eventually, after this became a clear pattern, I followed the cue of the usual class teacher and joked about the girl's allergy to work. Sarcasm isn't the choice I'd usually go for; I've come across similar before, and if there's a pattern, especially of the same few things, I'll ask if they've spoken to their parents, seen their GP about this... but "I can't possibly do any work, I have a headache" deserves short shrift - what'll they do once they're in work, not go in any day when they have a headache? I have friends who have headaches for a week at a time - they still have to work. And kids need to learn that truth, start getting used to it.
    Your finger hurts? Work anyway. You have a tummy ache? Work anyway. At my current place there are too many behaviour issues to push back on this minor stuff, but the kind of teacher I aspire to be is one who trains kids to work hard and not make excuses. There is no part of me that doesn't think it's to their ultimate benefit.
    (the exception to this being those students whose complaints point to a possible invisible disability; even they can't be let off the hook entirely though, they need to use those spoons they have for their education or their future will suffer. http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory-written-by-christine-miserandino/)
  5. I am also a student teacher and have been told to follow the "thats fine, sit quietly and you can stay in and do it when you feel better at break time" or following that, the "i'll speak to your parents after school and explain you were ill and need to do the work at home".
    My CT has been very clear to me - if they're going to puke, or faint, or generally be very unwell, you will know! Trust your instincts. x

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