As a Head Teacher I have to operate on so many different levels within such short time frames. I can find myself switching from discussing the budget (and how much we have to spend on various things ranging from the highly strategic to cleaning fluid), to the ins and outs of teaching and learning with staff in various guises all through the day. As Head Teachers we support staff who are depressed, going through difficulties at home, struggling with their teaching and so on. And sometimes this is all in the space of an hour.
Standing on the door in the morning to welcome the children in and chat to the parents is a highlight of my day. It’s lovely welcoming all the children in, seeing who is in ‘good form’ and who might need a bit of support settling. I do this with other members of my SLT including my Pupil and Family Support Worker. This morning she had a queue of parents waiting to talk to her about various things, one of whom was in tears. This is quite normal on a Monday. Just as the children seem to struggle with the ‘gap’ of the weekend, worrying that their teachers may not have ‘kept them in mind’ over the break, so it seems, do some of the parents.
In order for the children to make the good progress that they do we have to do a lot of behind the scenes support for both the children and the parents. I don’t know how we managed before I appointed my Pupil and Family Support Worker. She carries so much of the baggage that the parents and carers bring and that enables the rest of us to concentrate more on the learning. Today she ran a ‘sleep workshop’ to support parents and carers with helping their children to get to sleep and stay asleep. Tiredness is a major contributor to poor learning behaviours as often the children are simply too tired to learn. 12 parents had signed up for the course, 5 turned up.
I had a very interesting meeting this morning about the Turnabout intervention programme which helps to dramatically improve children’s working, auditory and visual sequential memories. This meeting was also with SENCOs from two other local schools. Working closely with colleagues is one of the best things that we do and from this meeting further opportunities for collaboration have emerged.
I also had a meeting this morning with a member of staff from a local secondary school about working together to promote the Rights Respecting Agenda. Again, exciting opportunities for collaborative working in the further development of pupil voice came out of the meeting.
I look forward to my lunch with the boys in the Support Class and today they didn’t disappoint. On my way down to them with their lunch I came across one of them who is now almost fully reintegrated back into his class. He was refusing to cooperate with the adults. He wasn’t responding to the adults so I said I would try and talk to him. Eventually he told me that he had been ‘play fighting’ with another boy in his class who had kicked him and so he had kicked him back. This is a big step forward for this child as he would never talk let alone explain what had happened. I asked him if he wanted to repair the situation and if he would like me to find the other child so that they could do this. He said he would so I went to get the other child, who when I found him, corroborated the story and admitted he had ‘started it’. We went to find the original child and they spontaneously shook hands and apologised, grinned at each other and walked off down the corridor smiling and happy. That is a real success. Some might think that they had ‘got away’ with inappropriate behaviour but, as I said in a previous blog, these are very young children who had taken responsibility for their actions, realised that what they do has a consequence for others and repaired the situation.
However, we are not having such success with one boy in particular in the Support Class. Today he was just as worrying. His lateness means that he doesn’t ever really settle. He avoids doing any work, however well differentiated or despite any 1:1 adult support offered. In fact, he swears at you if you try and get him to do anything. He sometimes likes being read to and this also calms him down. His reading is actually very good, he doesn’t struggle with it. He just doesn’t want to do anything.
I can understand why he doesn’t: his mum committed suicide when he was very small. He talks about his mum all the time. When I asked him about how he felt about the learning he had to do he said it made him feel ‘like poo’ because the work was ‘shit’. That is an incredible thing for a young child to say. He has absolutely no self esteem and his head is so full of awful anxiety that there is simply no room for learning most of the time. He is still traumatised. His father is still traumatised. I know from personal experience the impact that a suicide has on a family and on children in particular. It is like an atom bomb exploding and the shock waves continue for ever. They are relentless. The time between them may increase but they still come. This dad and child have not been able to access any support for this, not because it hasn’t been offered, but because dad doesn’t seem to be able to manage it and therefore disengages. I suspect that he is worried about unleashing the anger and grief and thinks that if this happens he would not cope. And yet his son has learned to read. He is a bright boy. If Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service won’t work with children because they are not in a place to manage any therapy, what are we supposed to do to support them? He has a very skilled Emotional Literacy Support Assistant and a very skilled class teacher. We are trying really hard to engage Dad. We HAVE to succeed. If we don’t, this boy is in danger of falling out of mainstream and I cannot allow that to happen if I can possibly help it.