I didn’t follow #behaviourchat tonight on Twitter. I often miss it because I’m planning or marking or some such other joy. But I caught this final thought to sum it all up:
I completely agree: absolutely every child deserves a champion. Someone to support them, to coach them, to mentor them and help them to succeed and to achieve. Some children need this more than others: for many, they just need to know that there is someone there for them if they need help or to talk. But for some, this champion needs to have a more permanent and prominent role.
So what happens when a big proportion of the class needs a champion all of the time? What happens when, being that champion, you are pulled in a multitude of directions?
I have had one of those days. You know the one: the kind of day where one child had an argument on the way to school. Another is missing a family member. One didn’t quite get dressed before coming in. Another has had big family issues over the weekend. One hadn’t had any breakfast or snack. Others, well, I didn’t quite get to the bottom of their difficulties today. And several others just came in “in one of those moods”. Each of these children has strategies in place to help them to cope – for many, just a quiet chat and a reminder about the expectations is all that is needed. Others have more formal strategies, be it reward charts, adult proximity, time out or time with one of our Learning Mentors.
How is it possible though, as one adult in a class of 30, to support each of these individuals and be the champion they need and deserve. If one or even two have a difficult start, then it’s easy to provide the support they need. But when so many of them come in needing undivided adult support and attention, things go wrong. I want to be that champion, I really do. I sensed as soon as the children came in that many were needing positivity and TLC. So the positivity came. While we registered and went to assembly, each of those children could demand a little bit of my time: I could talk to them, ask about their weekend, calm and soothe those who needed it whilst still attending to the needs of the rest of the class. But once lessons began, they could no longer have that undivided attention all of the time. That’s when things went wrong. I couldn’t give the pastoral support each of them needed and teach lessons to the rest of the class.
We have a pastoral team at school who are brilliant at their job. They can talk with children, calm them down, get them ready to learn and to re-join their peers in class. But even they are being stretched in all directions. So many children now have complex needs which we need time and manpower to support. Children can’t learn if they are angry, upset, anxious or hungry. If they are worrying about what is going on at home or who they will find meeting them at the end of the day. We can’t even contemplate teaching them to write stories or to round numbers when their heads are somewhere else. Yet we are expected to do just that. We need to do just that, for the other two thirds of the class who have come in to school ready and willing to learn.
Often, Monday is the hardest day of the week for my children. I guess it’s because of the weekend/week day transition. Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m sure it will be a better one. I will be the champion these children deserve. We’ll take a step back, sit down and calm down and be in a better place to learn, to be happy and to succeed.
All of us.