I have a feeling that this blog post will have no conclusion and will just be a series of ramblings.
Being a teacher and an adoptive parent is tricky. Being a teacher and being on Twitter is sometimes tricky. I know how frustrating and heartbreaking it can be when our children’s needs are not met at school. I’ve vented my frustrations about this.
I know how much should be being done for every single child in every single class. But I also know how desperately hard that’s becoming.
Next year, I will have 33 children in my class. 9 of whom have significant additional needs. 1 of whom has support. I also have a child with diabetes and two with epilepsy. And this isn’t an out of the ordinary class. Meeting every child’s needs at every point in the day is not going to be easy. I’m going to miss things. I’m going to miss potential triggers that could alert me to how a child is doing. I’m not going to get it right every time. But I know that by missing things, I could accidentally escalate things and that child then finds themselves in a situation they can’t cope with. And I know that that child might go home and show everyone at home just how tricky their day has been.
In my first year of teaching, one of the children in my class threw a table at me. It broke my big toe and I have no toenail on that toe. Now, clearly, I missed some triggers. But should I be assaulted in my place of work? I’ve been hurt by children several times in my career. I’ve been punched, bitten and kicked. The boy who threw a table at me was excluded from school for two days. Was this the right measure? I don’t know. *
It sometimes feels like, particularly being a primary teacher, that we are expected to solve everything. Children are having increased dental problems, we now brush teeth in school, children aren’t getting enough exercise, we have to do more in school, children aren’t being exposed to other languages, we have to teach two of them in schools. I’m not saying that these things shouldn’t be happening, but the pressure to meet targets doesn’t lessen. We’re still expected to meet age related expectations as well as teaching children about growing vegetables.
I am aware that there are some teachers that are not prepared to see things another way, teachers that think that all children should be able to learn in the same way and cope with the same things. But most don’t. Most are willing to learn and support children. But sometimes they will get it wrong. With all my knowledge that I’ve gained over the last four years, I still get it wrong. When a child has answered me back or they are refusing to do something, I don’t always manage it in the way I know best. And that’s me knowing what I know.
So yes, I think that absolutely, more should be being done for all children in schools. Much more should be being done to meet needs, to look at individuals and to see what can be done to support them. But if it’s not being done, it’s not necessarily the class teacher’s fault. It needs money, it needs training, it needs leadership, it needs resources and it needs time. Most of us are working incredibly hard to meet every child’s needs. But education needs investing in and, at the moment, the opposite is happening.
I don’t have the answers to how we get it right all the time. I’ve mostly found that I can have extremely ‘challenging’ children in my class and that by the end of the year, they are a lot less ‘challenging’. But that takes a lot from me. As I get older and my own pressures from home take more and more precedence in my life, I don’t know how much I’m going to be able to sustain this level of teaching. I want to, but I don’t know how feasible it actually is.
As I said, I have no conclusions. And I know that not everyone will agree with me. And that’s okay.
*Very sadly, the wee boy who threw a table at me was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was 18. He asked me to go and visit him in the hospital. I did and when I got there, he’d run away. I left him a note saying ‘I’m glad to see I’m still having to chase you round to get you to listen to me.’ He sent me a message apologising and thanking me for the presents I’d brought. There are people that say relationships don’t matter at schools. But they do. That wee boy has had a heck of a life, but he remembered me and I still remember him. For me, relationships will always be a fundamental part of my teaching.