Sore Teeth and Rough Books – Are we Ignoring our Children’s Innate Sensitivity?

“My teeth are really hurting me, Miss,” cried a young student in my primary school classroom recently. He was deeply distressed and the tears were flowing freely as he held his jaw to soothe the pain.

Towards the end of a very lengthy spelling test, he had asked if he could go and sharpen his pencil. I’d indicated we only had 5 words to go so it wasn’t necessary – I’d be able to read the last 5 words even so.

Shortly afterwards came the very genuine river of tears as he explained to me how when he writes with a blunt pencil, the unpleasant sensation moves up his arm and into his teeth, making them feel very sore and painful. We agreed that he should never again use a blunt pencil and would keep a spare sharpened one handy for situations like these.

The incident had me reflecting on childhood sensitivities of my own and those I have observed as teacher, and then questioning why we fail to consider the sensitivity of our children in our schools and homes.

I clearly recall the dread I felt from the age of 6 onwards whenever we were asked in school to write something in our Rough Books. These books had a strange smell and the pages were coarse and scratchy; no matter how good your writing was, it was very difficult to write on those pages and the work never felt or looked ok. As a child, I had assumed that the term Rough Book referred to their unpleasant texture and odour and wondered why we were subjected to them when we had other perfectly normal books on hand. Many years later, I realised that to adults, rough meant first copy or first draft. The child’s reading of the situation was equally valid – they were definitely rough!

Then there was the school toilet paper – coarse and grainy on one side so not at all user friendly; shiny and non-absorbent on the other side so not practical either. I learned ‘not to go’ at school. Today, toilet paper in schools is still not of the quality routinely used in most homes.

Along with many school peers, I used to gag at the warm milk provided for our break and tried to claim I couldn’t drink it like the 2 kids on orange juice. How I envied them but I was overruled by adult authority. Are the same feelings overridden today by adding sugary flavours to milk, I wonder?

I’ve observed children who are sensitive to the fluorescent lights typically used in many classrooms: they get headaches and eye strain. Some kids find the hard plastic chairs uncomfortable to sit on. In our room they are allowed to bring in cushions but this is seen as irregular or as a nuisance by some colleagues.

I’ve met kids who are noise sensitive: loud music and large groups of excited people mean they need to wear ear muffs to block out the sound. Some find clothing labels unbearable and either scratch constantly or have to have them cut off from t-shirts and other items of clothing. Other kids become anxious at the prospect of sport or intense physical exercise and almost all kids become extremely loud and boisterous when they have soft drink on special days, indicating that their young bodies are very sensitive to sugar.

Children are sensitive to being excluded from games, activities and events, to being called names, picked on, teased and bullied.

The majority of kids I have known react negatively to most academic competitive situations like classroom tests and especially national testing. They become anxious, withdrawn, nervous, teary, atypically loud. The results of those affected in this way rarely reflect their true ability – ability seen very clearly in the openly friendly environment of a child with their teacher and peers.

Our children are acutely sensitive on a physical level and in sensing the ambient energy of the situations they meet daily. Their bodies have yet to learn to override the signals that arise from their delicate and tender physicality and their often natural tendency to self-care and nurture.

It seems to me that we need to ask ourselves why we would want them to override the messages of their own body.

The other boys in my class were initially astonished that the tearful chap received an understanding ear from the teacher and an action plan to make sure he didn’t have to compromise his physical comfort in the future. This opened the door for a class discussion on whether or not it’s ok for boys and girls to be open about their sensitivities. We decided that in our classroom, it is ok to do so.

What says the rest of humanity? Should we be teaching our children to ignore their body’s signals or even harden their bodies so that the impulses cannot be felt? Or do we need to look at and consider what it could mean for all of us to honour our bodies and our innate sensitivity from birth and on into our elder years?

For myself, it’s a no brainer and I question why we would opt for the ignore or harden option when we could be allowing the full and open expression of our gorgeous sensitivity, a sensitivity that sustains our connection with the loving beings we all are.

By CBH, Teacher

Further Reading:
Listening to my Body
How do you know what is right for your body?
Returning to our body – The wonder, beauty and science of our body


74 thoughts on “Sore Teeth and Rough Books – Are we Ignoring our Children’s Innate Sensitivity?

  1. Reading this blog felt like a real honouring and understanding of all the super sensitive traits I had as a kid (and most of which I still have now) that were used to either tease me or place me in an ‘over-sensitive kid’ category. I am at a point now though that appreciates so much how sensitive I have always been as a little boy and as a man, for without that sensitivity I would not be able to feel, read, and understand so many life situations and challenges that have enabled me to grow and evolve.

  2. If all classrooms were like yours then there would not be nearly so many issues with lack of sensitivity and lack of vitality in later life as forcing children to override their innate sensitivity causes society so many subsequent problems that we all suffer the consequences of.

  3. When will we not only realise but change the education system that is putting so much pressure unnecessarily on our younger generation and failing them. I feel this is when we really do need to be aware of energy and where such energy comes from that creates systems like these because it is very far away from love.

  4. I love to read that there are teachers out there who still support children to be themselves. In a world where this is so rare, where students and people in general are always encouraged to fit the mold, be beside themselves & simply comply. To have a solid teacher, who stands for truth & cares for their pupils is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. We don’t like to admit just how sensitive we all are, because if we did we would have to learn to interrelate with each other in a completely different way. We would have to do business differently, work differently and live differently… and that would mean huge change.

  6. Maybe if school children were open in their sensitivities as has been shared in this blog we would have a society that is much more loving and naturally sensitive as normal? Currently today many of us are getting lost and confused, which has become obvious with there being so much out of control behaviours happening world-wide!

  7. “Children are sensitive to being excluded from games, activities and events, to being called names, picked on, teased and bullied”. Exclusion to both kids and adults is an absolutely dreadful feeling. To feel that we are being purposefully left out of something cuts us to our very core, we are all so desperate to be included. Our natural way of being is to be inclusive, we are all actually energetically linked to one another, belonging and being a part of one another is our living way, which is why, in part, I feel that exclusion hurts us so much.

  8. “The incident had me reflecting on childhood sensitivities of my own and those I have observed as teacher, and then questioning why we fail to consider the sensitivity of our children in our schools and homes”. I wonder if we do fail to consider the sensitivity of children or if in the briefest of moments we do consider their sensitivity and in that instance feel how far we have allowed ourselves to get from our own sensitivity and so in an attempt to not acknowledge this we automatically brush it aside. And all of this happens in the blink of an eye.

  9. Sensitivity in children is not only brushed aside but it’s also punished by some parents, teachers and people in authority who feel that kids (and especially boys) are being self-indulgent cry babies. There’s nothing like a quick clip round the ear or slap on the back of the head to make a kid toughen up pretty quick smart and think twice about saying anything that reflects their sensitivity again. It’s such a tragic and yet common scenario.

  10. On the London underground I’m always amazed at how people don’t seem to notice just how loud the screeching is – like it really hurts my ears and I’ll put my fingers in my ears -though there is the temptation to act like nothing is happening whilst being deafened. And apparently this is actually what’s happening as I was reading findings of dangerously high decibel levels. A great reflection because in other areas I do ignore my sensitivities in an attempt to fit in.

  11. I know it feels really sweet and respectful when I honour my body and that therefore as an adult I have a beautiful responsibility in all my interactions with children to honour them and their feelings and senses too.

  12. It is so obvious the way many schools operate at the moment that children have to toughen up in school and hide their sensitivity. They have to shrug things off, and turn down their feelings. But we are all sensitive whether we express it or not, it doesn’t go away because we are hiding it.

  13. Our delicacy and sensitivity are the true markers that guide our moral and ethical choices in life. When we harden our bodies to ignore the lack of care and sensitivity in our environment, we open the door to the most horrendous abuses and regard them as normal. I love how you have co-created an environment in your classroom that engenders this sensitivity and hence provides all the children within true education.

    1. True education that supports children to remain connected to their inner knowing and making choices that support them to remain true to themselves and feel what is needed for everyone.

  14. So beautiful to feel the sensitivity of you, CBH, in your tender and loving response to the sensitivity of the child. What a marker in one’s life to ‘seen’ and acknowledged at such a young age as that young boy.

  15. Honouring your sensitivity in some countries is considered a weakness and certainly not nurtured. The predominate way fosters hardness and ‘resilience.’ in order to make it in an economic environment where day to day life is about survival.

  16. “Their bodies have yet to learn to override the signals that arise from their delicate and tender physicality and their often natural tendency to self-care and nurture.” I like it that you wrote about the sensitivity of children as I too had to harden myself at school and almost forgot it. So I can now appreciate my sensitivity and that it was not a failure to be a sensitive child.

  17. We ride rough shod over our children’s sensitivity because we have become so incredibly desensitised ourselves. We can only understand and relate to others through our own understanding of ourselves. If we are unable to feel something ourselves then we won’t consciously know of it’s existence in another, how can we?

  18. I have never understood why school chairs are so uncormfortable – we would not make adults sit in them all day in an office so why children? And as a Physiotherapist I wonder if we are setting up postural and back and neck issues later in life by not supporting children’s highly sensitive bodies more.

  19. How aware the small child was that connected the blunt pencil to the movement of his arm and the pain in his jaw and teeth – WOW how exposing. Time to reclaim all that sensitivity we have disconnected from and live the beautifully sensitive Beings we were born to be.

  20. I would love to be a student in your classroom, CBH. To have a teacher who recognises that children’s sensitivities are unique to them, very valid and worth supporting is worth it’s weight in gold.

  21. As elders the tide can turn once more. Some, who are deeply sensitive feel the slightest change in temperature, touch, taste, movement and speech and important that they express this at the time. Inspiring to be with elders who have not shut down this quality and openly express their sensitivities. Similar to teachers, our responsibility as carers is to create a safe place for all elders (and many are more held back) so they feel able to express their sensitivities.

    1. How wonderful Kehinde what you share. I notice as the people in my life get older they become more sensitive which is really lovely. Sometimes they need a bit of support, responded to with love and role modelling for example, to not give themselves a hard time for this and not do the ‘stiff upper lip’ thing.

    1. And this classroom will be a place of huge support, nurture and inspiration in these children’s lives. I have found that once we are touched by this quality and care we never forget it.

  22. To respond to the sensitivity of others with tenderness shows we ourselves have honoured our own sensitivity.

  23. ‘This opened the door for a class discussion on whether or not it’s ok for boys and girls to be open about their sensitivities. We decided that in our classroom, it is ok to do so.’ Amazing! I remember school where teachers were set up as gods and couldn’t be spoken to. I remember a few teachers I tried to avoid they were so angry and unpredictable! And one who was so jealous of me which made absolutely no sense in the normal way of the world.

  24. I really get how toughing up and numbing our sensitivities is deeply ingrained in the school education system as a kind of training, as if the ability to push through any discomfort and basically shut up and get on with things is a sign of growing up – whilst our sensitivity lets us know exactly what is happening and it forms a basis of our true strength to be understanding and observing of the world we live in.

  25. Reading this does bring back the memories of being sensitive and having to override the feelings, and being told to ‘just get on with it’.

  26. Brilliant blog, summing up in such precise detail the challenges of my school years; I can still feel my body reacting instantly to that ghastly warm milk! From observing how so many adults dismiss the sensitivity of children in a multitude of ways, it is easy to see how the feeling of not being honoured stays with them as they grow and as a result they stop honouring and respecting themselves and their innate sensitivities. No wonder that world is such a ‘hard’ place to live in when we have buried who we truly are.

  27. This is a great example how we can practically support our kids’ sensitivity and thus equally support and nurture our own rather than sacrifice it at the altar of functionality.

  28. Oh my goodness. I was so deeply touched reading what your young pupil shared: “when he writes with a blunt pencil, the unpleasant sensation moves up his arm and into his teeth, making them feel very sore and painful.” Such a depth of sensitivity, awareness and ability to express. We can learn so much, heal so much and deepen so much by allowing and honouring our young ones’ expression in the way so beautifully reflected in this bog.

  29. ‘and then questioning why we fail to consider the sensitivity of our children in our schools and homes.’ We are so focused on function that we totally fail to consider how our kids are feeling and what they are sensing. What you are sharing here communicates that their days are really devoid of loving nurturing care, which really should be our normal. It doesn’t make sense that we would not consider all of their needs.

    1. We are so focused on getting results and getting good league table scores in the UK that supporting children with their sensitivity comes well after that fact and sometimes, it gets missed altogether.

    2. Function, function, function both in school and out of school. We are so focused on what our kids achieve during their school day and then what they are able to achieve in their out of school activities. We like to say that they are doing things out of school ‘for fun’ but still there is this focus on function. We focus on what skills they’ve acquired, whether or not they were ‘recognised’ by their coach or instructor, did they get a badge or a certificate? When back at home the function continues, dinner, bath and bed. There seems to be no time for sensitivity because when sensitivity does come up then as stressed and tired parents it can be a bit of a nuisance because it requires time that we just don’t feel that we have. But allowing time for sensitivity actually creates space because it recognises the being and anything that recognises the being in us opens up space and when we’re in space there is no need for time management because there is no time, there’s just space, loads and loads of it.

      1. All of that constant pressure on the child and the parent. There was a time a child was punished by being sent to their room. Now that is where they escape into the world of multimedia. When was the last or the first time a child, was asked when coming home from school how they felt the day was, rather than how much homework they have to do? And, what do the parents do to escape their pressure of pushing the child to be the best?

  30. I visit our local primary school and I have noticed that when it comes to national tests it is the teachers who are tense as the results are an assessment of their teaching. This tension is picked up by the children and is the cause of a lot of stress.

  31. We are all born as rough diamonds, and we make the child loose parts of themselves to be something we think they should look like at the end of the polishing process that we call education. How insensitive is this process?

  32. Thank you for writing this blog teacher. I can recall so clearly how I use to feel about seating on hard benches/chairs and bringing a cushion wasn’t an option at the time (1977). The itchy, inconfortable « smart » grey trousers/jumpers made of wool. I remember crying because they were so uncomfortable to wear at the age of 7… I also remember how difficult it was to focus on my homework because I was loading myself with milk, sugar and bread(gluten) and there was nowbody to explain to me at the time how much and how this was affecting me and why I had cravings for this type of food! Still today, I can see that for a large majority of the population, for whatever reason this is, it is a no go land and people are still getting bullied for expressing their view around it ( how mad is this?)

  33. CBH through your connection to your own body and through your understanding of how children feel you have re-opened my connection to my childhood body as well as opened up a great topic for discussion. You have reminded me of how sensitive we all are as children and also reminded me of how over time that sensitivity gets eroded away, leaving a very desensitised body in it’s wake. A less sensitive body is more able to be manipulated and coerced into situations, behaviours and ways of being that don’t cherish or honour it. And as a result we have the confused, congested and insensitive world that we currently live in.

  34. My recollections of school days were of the teachers attempting to knock my sensitivity out of me with a blunt instrument. Sensitivity was something you needed to lose if you were going be a man and humiliation was often used to help us on our way. Why it was not appreciated that sensitivity is a strength and not a weakness I am not sure.

    1. This is absolutely shocking to read Doug and I don’t think much has changed when you see the hardened state of our men, who in many cases are living so far from who they truly are. Blogs like this are so essential to raise society’s awareness of the fact, that boy or girl, children are innately sensitive, something to be treasured and honoured, not to be ‘knocked’ out of them.

  35. Reading this has prompted me to support my sensitivity in the world more. One area has been at work, so sitting by the window because the UV light feels horrid. Another was ordering a keyboard that I enjoy typing on – work used to have keyboards your fingers needed great strength to use. The strain of typing went into my shoulders and caused stiffness. I carried this keyboard around with me changed the mouse too. Work is demanding and any support feels invaluable to help me give what’s needed.

    My next step is preventing the extreme pain of sitting at a low desk in supervision and typing on laptop. I’ll take in realms of paper to heighten the laptop.

  36. I would agree that it is so important that we honour our children’s natural sensitivity and awareness, even if it exposes areas where we may have chosen to shut down our own.

  37. We think we find corruption being exposed uncomfortable but in my experience – having someone honour their sensitivity can be just as ‘in your face’. It makes you question instantly why you have let all your own sensitivities slide. No wonder so many hardened adults dismiss children’s sensations so consistently.

  38. Your actions are truly honoring of the sensitivities of the children in your classroom. Your openness will encourage other children to be forthright and not hold back their expression and this is a great reflection of your true care and willingness to listen.

  39. I can really relate to what you shared about your time in primary school and definitely remember the shiny useless toilet paper that was like grease proof paper not practical or nice at all. And reflecting on this and other things became really aware of the lack of care and love in the world and more importantly how it doesn’t have to be this way. We all have a choice and can all choose and the more of us that choose love and care the bigger the ripple affect for the all .. supporting others to choose this as well not just for themselves but for everyone ❤️

    1. It amazes me the detail in which our bodies remember everything. When I read CBH’s recounts of the toilet paper, I too remembered how not only did the toilet paper not absorb liquid but it seemed to actively repel it! What’s absolutely fascinating for me to reflect on is that our bodies remember the minutest details about our lives and yet there is a part of us that chooses to forget whole chunks of our childhood, literally years and years. What is it that we are choosing to forget?

    2. I too remember the ‘shiny useless toilet paper’! It really was not good! I love how you supported the child in your class, CBH, to honour what he was feeling about his blunt pencil. He will learn from now on that it’s ok to honour how he is feeling about anything in life and make choices that support this.

  40. Beautiful to feel how you supported all the children to honour their sensitivity within the safe space of your classroom.

  41. I’m a very sensitive man and this felt like a curse for much of my life. It is something that I and many other men I know have endeavoured to shut down, deny or ignore. What I have found is that in truth it is not possible to shut down sensitivity for it is as much a part of us as seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing is. We are naturally sensitive beings and so we may deny it but it doesn’t actually change the fact. How amazing it would have been to have a teacher who understood this and embraced sensitivity. Thank you CBH for raising the awareness of this for teachers, parents and adults everywhere.

    1. It is sad to hear that you have felt being a sensitive man has felt like a curse for much of your life. It should not be the case at all and I will truly celebrate the day when men, woman and children feel they can embrace their sensitivity and not be afraid to do so. Being sensitive is not a weakness it is in fact a strength.

    2. Maybe it felt like a curse because people treat it as if you are weak if you are sensitive. If you showed any sensitivity at school I discovered I would be humiliated first by the teacher, then picked on by my peers. The kids in your class are altogether in another league to my peers and I feel sure that this is down to you and how you connect to them.

    3. I can relate so well to what you write Richard though as a child I did not perceive it as a curse. Instead it made me feel that there was something wrong with me which I had to learn to correct though however much I endeavoured to do so and whatever I did never seemed to be enough. Oh what a joy it is know that there is nothing ‘wrong’ with me.

    4. As a child I was incredibly sensitive until I got bullied and then I changed and hardened. I then, as an adult bullied a male colleague who was very sensitive. I labelled him as weak and found myself to be completely intolerant of him. I wonder now if what I couldn’t bear was the reflection that he was offering me. He was in my life when I was my hardest and nastiest and rather than value his reflection my reaction was to crush it. This appalling behaviour goes on constantly, my sensitivity was bullied out of me and in turn I then attempted to bully it out of another and so it unfortunately goes.

  42. It feels like the school environment toughens us up for a tough exterior in adult life, and we become detached from feeling what is happening in our bodies. To find a classroom where the children are able to talk openly about their sensitivities is a godsend and hopefully a new trend.

  43. Thank you for writing such a great blog about our sensitivity which is equally in children as it is in adults. I went to an office recently where I had to be signed in by a security guard I would say the man was middle aged and what struck me immediately was his sensitivity and how he was trying to hide it by being overweight and playing dumb but underneath this exterior posturing was a highly sensitive man who didn’t feel safe showing his sensitivity to the world.

  44. I really enjoyed reading this CBH, so much opportunity to cherish the sensitivity that children feel. What a lifelong difference that can make to a child’s whole outlook on their value and their place in the world.

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