Walking the tightrope

In my experience being a school leader is a balancing act. You are constantly balancing the needs of the people in the school. Primary needs are those of the children, though as John Tomsett says in his blog, the staff are as important and we need to look after them in order to ensure that they can provide the best education for the children. Sometimes, though, there is a conflict. What I need to do to ensure the children’s education and well being means that some of the staff might not be happy about it.

This has happened this term. Some of my staff are having to get used to not having a Learning Support Assistant with them in the afternoons. The rest of the school are having to manage this too but they are quite happy with the arrangements and are just getting on with it. The LSAs are working specifically with particular children on particular things rather than generally supporting in the classroom. These  staff are feeling anxious because of the volatile nature of some of the children in their classes. When people get anxious they can, unwittingly, disempower themselves. In giving them back the responsibility for the children’s behaviour, not solving it for them but trying to help them to think about it, SLT are actually empowering them to do their job; but they don’t feel that. It is also the anxiety of one or two members of staff which has influenced others. I have decided to meet with SLT tomorrow to reflect upon what is happening in the school and decide how best to deal with it.

We are a very supportive school. We listen well and we support as much as we can. Sometimes, though, I have to remind staff that they are paid professionals and that they just need to get on with it.

There is another impact of this anxiety in that the more volatile children are struggling at the moment. One child in is being particularly difficult. He is usually very well managed but at the moment is being very challenging. He is deliberately trying to undermine all ‘authority’ whether that is his teacher or his mum. Mum is exhausted. His older sister has behavioural needs and attends a special school. He is like a sponge, soaking up anxiety from all sides and which is now seeping out. He wants to be in control. His teacher is doing her best but he is simply not responding. We have arranged a meeting with mum and our PFSW and the class teacher to look at ways forward. I am trying to support the teacher in thinking about what is happening in the classroom in order to help her manage this difficult child.

I also have a child who is completely off the wall at the moment. We are not sure exactly what the issues are but she is very unhappy. Her self esteem is zero. She told us that her little brother gets all the attention at home because her little brother is ‘loveable’ whereas she is not. She is also struggling to come to terms with two bereavements which have happened in the last year.

She has been in my office to calm down and has been kicking and punching the doors, walls and windows. She is a very able child but is refusing to do any of her learning, saying that she can’t do it. For whatever reason, she is feeling like she can’t do it, or doesn’t understand. She gets very jealous (her word) of the statemented children in her class who have 1:1 support and feels that she should have it too. I asked her what she thought would help and she said that he thought the support group would be a good place to help her. So we met with her mum and agreed that from today she would go into the support group.

It didn’t work. She got very angry and was very dangerous, kicked the door and broke the glass. I have excluded her for a day. However, tomorrow my PFSW is going to go and see her at home. She is going to take her learning and she is going to use the time to talk to her and her parents about what might help her manage better in school.

The honeymoon period is over and now the hard work begins in earnest…

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