It has taken a week or so but things are really getting back to normal now. One of the interesting elements of my job is that occasionally I have the opportunity to play a small part in the reshaping of services to vulnerable families and young people. I have been involved in a series of interviews for a strategic post, something I found very interesting, especially as my experience is of a complete disconnect between Social Care and Education most of the time.
School yesterday was calm. My vulnerable children are wobbling however, and their teachers and learning support assistants are doing their best to hold them together and keep them learning. Our LAC child really struggles with Monday mornings. Her carer is amazing and the progress she is making is better than I could have hoped for, but every Monday she manages to lose the plot and becomes very disruptive. I spent some time with her after school in ‘payback’ where she was catching up with the work that she had missed. Some people disagree with payback but it seems to work for us as the emphasis is that the children ‘pay back’ or complete the learning that they missed.
Usually this child resists this vehemently but yesterday was lovely. She had ripped up her handwriting book so I sat and put the ‘teacher’ bits back into a new one while she sat and did her literacy. It was amazing, she has been a child who completely refuses to do any learning, but here she was, beside me, writing away quite happily, commenting every now and then on this pop star or the other while I practised my best handwriting. In fact, the time went so fast that her carer was at the door ready to collect her before we even realised.
Her carer is special. She has managed to make such a difference to her, I feel she really has a chance to succeed. The changes in her attitude and her understanding that there are ‘consequences’ are huge. She has enough resilience now to accept her mistakes and the consequences of her actions. She has learned that we are fair and her carer has helped her to trust us.
There are two more of the children that are having a hard time at the moment. Both of whom have parents with mental health difficulties. One was in tears in my office at the end of the day as her dad and stepmother are in the process of splitting up amidst rows and shouting and aggression. What she was upset about in particular was the possibility that her baby sister might not have her dad there for Christmas. This child is wise beyond her years at times, and at others regresses to being a toddler. She is very astute. Once I was talking to her after I had completed a lesson observation and I asked her what she had thought of the lesson. She told me that she thought the teacher talked to much and should just let the children get on with it. I laughed as that was exactly what I had written down and when I shared this with the teacher she laughed too and agreed that she needed to talk less!
Today though, she just sobbed. At times I am aware that children just need some space. So I left her be at my table and I got on with my work. Eventually the sobbing stopped. I asked her if she was ok now and she said she was and could she go back to class, which she did.
Children have an incredible sense of injustice and fairness and for children who have low self esteem this sense seems to be magnified. The other child who is having a wobbly time at the moment is feeling persecuted by all the adults around him. Even the slightest chastisement goes in and he crumbles. The result of the crumble is a massive kick-back and that is when things go flying. Needless to say, things went flying today. Given time and space he too calmed down and was able to go back to class. Sometimes staff forget just how vulnerable some of these children are and when you have a class of 30 that’s easy to do.
My Pupil and family Support Worker and I have also been dealing with an exceptionally difficult situation between two warring parents. Unfortunately for us this has culminated in one of them making a complaint against the school – for something that actually is not within our remit, however much they would like it to be. These parents are unable to be in the remotest bit civil to each other and so use the school as a battleground. Stuck in the middle, coping amazingly well under the circumstances, is their child. What is so sad is that we have completed,very successfully, our support work with him, but his parents won’t do their bit. And so it rumbles on, exploding into conflict every now and then and we do our best to pick up the pieces.
I spent this morning working with the children in the support group as their teacher was on a course. It was lovely. Calm and purposeful and they all engaged with their learning. About halfway through the morning though a child from another class, who has been on the verge of joining the group for a while, was brought into the room kicking and shouting, by my SENCo and his class teacher as he had been trashing his classroom. When they got him in he started picking up chairs and throwing them around and being very dangerous so I had to restrain him in a ‘wrap’. As I held him I explained that I would let him go as long as he didn’t throw anything or do anything that would put anyone in danger. He didn’t really struggle much, I let go very quickly and he didn’t throw anything else. In fact, he calmed right down. Holding him had made him feel safe I think, and contained, and this enabled him to regain some control.
It is noticeable though, just how delicate the calm is. Chaos is only just under the surface with these children and it struck me again just what a skilled job my staff do in enabling them to learn anything at all. They are studying Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and they love it.