This time of year is significant for many reasons. Football tournaments, Tennis tournaments, National and International athletics championships…(I’m not going to mention the obvious politically ‘interesting’ time in the UK at the moment)…
But for those schools who are mindful of the precious children within their communities who find things extra hard because of what they have been through in life, this is a very VERY significant time.
Because these are the days when many schools are making the decisions on which teacher a particular child would be best put with next year.
I have lost count how many times over years, I have been asked for my opinion concerning a child in this regard. Either through working with the child in therapy, or through the consultancy roles I have focusing on advising a school in how best to support a child.
For some schools I know, it is not an option. For some schools there is no choice. A one-form entry school where teachers stay the same, year on year, are unlikely to do a complete cabinet reshuffle (oops – I said I wasn’t going to mention it) for the sake of 1 child.
For some schools the decisions are made on other criteria – staffing structures, timetables, class histories, teacher ‘experience’ etc etc
However, the amount of times I have been asked this, lets me know there are schools out there who are really considering things from a child’s perspective. They have some flexibility – there are some options and they honestly want to do what is best for that particular child, whilst doing their best by ALL the others too. They know it matters.
Often (but not exclusively) the question often comes up when there is a decision to be made between placing a child in a 1-teacher class, or a class who have 2 teachers doing a job-share (which seems to be becoming more and more common?).
Traditional wisdom, based in attachment theory, will say that the child who has experienced trauma would be best off in the class with 1 teacher. 1 person to get to know, 1 persons’ way and rules and personality to navigate, less change, less chance of ‘falling down the gap’ between the 2 staff members etc etc. I understand all the reasons and the rational.
HOWEVER, there are times when my advice is different. If all things are equal , then yes go with the 1 teacher-class option. BUT if the staff members are significantly different in terms of the ENERGY they have, and how easily children feel safe around them, then you need to choose safety over consistency.
Below are my top 7 suggestions for choosing the best type of teacher to place a child who has experienced / is experiencing trauma. For more of the theory behind this come join either Essential Therapeutic Communication Skills or Helping Children stay Emotionally Safe in School training.
My TOP 7 factors for choosing the best next teacher are:-
- teacher/s who are more grounded in themselves
- teacher/s who have good personal boundaries and therefore classroom management
- teacher/s who are more emotionally empathetic
- teacher/s that are willing to receive support and work with advice (which may also include looking at their own ‘stuff‘ and changing their practice a bit).
- teacher/s that are keen to learn and apply what they learn about trauma to their own practice and class environment
- teacher/s that like the child and want to help him/her thrive
- teacher/s that are not scared of the child
If a long-standing member of staff who knows the curriculum inside out and upside down, does not meet these criteria then I would recommend choosing a more in-experienced teacher who has good classroom management and does match these attributes.
In the ‘1-teacher Vs job-share’ debate situations, if the single teacher does not meet these, and either or both of the job sharers do, then they would be my recommendation.
These children more than any (although they all do actually, to different outcomes) work on energy. They can detect at a million miles if you are calm, if you are stressed, if you like them, if you don’t. If they don’t feel safe with you, then their neurology and physiology change and make learning with you really hard.
Some staff get this intuitively.
Some are willing to understand it.
Some are willing to put the effort in to make themselves more grounded – to be better practitioners and safer for these children to be around.
Some are not.