We have a lot of children at school who need support, extra help in the classroom for one reason or another. Some of them really struggle with their learning and need all tasks changed in the way they are presented, adapted so that the level of skill or knowledge that we want them to learn is appropriate and broken down into tiny chunks so that they can remember exactly what they need to do. They are willing to learn, want to learn but learning in itself is a challenge.
We have others who are, given work differentiated within the normal classroom range, able to learn. They can, if they choose, read, write, come up with amazing, insightful ideas but it is when they want or are able to. These children are frustrating. We can offer them extra classroom assistance, we can offer them strategies such as cool down cards – enabling them to have 5 minutes out of the classroom in a safe, quiet place, we can offer emotional literacy type interventions but although they know these strategies, they agree to use these strategies, they may even have suggested the idea themselves, they don’t use them.
Some of our upper KS2 children are tall, they are big, they have teenage attitude although not yet teenagers. We are in school to teach and, as has been said in a lot of other places, we are not social workers but we often have to solve some of the social problems before we can possibly teach. Sometimes we can calm these children down and may occasionally get to the bottom of their behaviour- frequently things such as, “He looked at me funny”, “She gave me the evils” or “His granddad swore at my grandma so I ‘ate ‘im.” Reasons which may seem insignificant to us but for some of these children are so all consuming that however interesting and well presented a lesson is, it will never compete.
How do we help? I don’t have the answers; I can read books, I can try ideas and strategies. I am willing to try anything but the more I seem to try the more I think it links back to outside school. I know of schools that announce that “once you enter into our gates all outside problems are left outside, here is a haven of tranquillity.” It just doesn’t seem to happen here. These children are just that, children, 8, 9, 10 year olds who seem to be trying to sort the problems of previous generations of their families. We need to be able to teach them that there is a better way. As a staff we lead by example, talking calmly, remind them that they all have a right to be safe, to be heard, to have an education, to have their views taken into consideration. For the vast majority of the time the vast majority of the children know this, it’s just working out how we can help the minority. I’m sure there must be a way; we just haven’t found it yet.