Are you okay?
Do you feel safe?
How are you today? A question i ask and fear the answer, knowing i have little time to listen, if a child does choose to open up. Would you bother to express emotion to someone who is partly listening and partly watching the 29 other students? When full attention is needed how can it be given when a teachers main duty is teaching.
In-between marking, planning, assessment, ensuring progress, safeguarding, managing behavior and engaging attention.
5 periods; 30 students and a tutor group.
One hundred and eighty. The typical amount of students one teacher will see per day. As a teacher we are told to ‘pick your battles’ because not every smart comment or minor disruption can be tackled without causing major delay for the real reason of you being present; to teach. Is it fair to give one disruptive student my time and leave the rest when i could be furthering their progress?
Is it fair to let a student slip? By slip i mean fall in to the school discipline system because their behavior is too hard to handle. Teachers do not have the time to depict exactly why the child is seeking so much extra negative attention within a lesson and so instead he/she is disciplined. Put on report, monitored, but we know it is something deeper troubling him/her. I have noticed that the students who do not care about getting in trouble or receiving a detention usually have a deeper issue they are dealing with inside. Evoking a chain reaction of harsher punishment, is it effective? The final straw is exclusion so you tell me?
There are people in place that the child can talk to, such as a tutor, but what is in place for those who need more? You will be surprised how much a child can go through during their school years, many teachers do not even know whats going on at home, all we see is a naughty student.
The select few i have personally managed to take an interest in have heartbreaking home lives; but to the naked eye they are the naughty ones in the class, the ones who get sent out, go on report and eventually get kicked out. All they crave is time, intervention and commitment. This is something every teacher wants to give, but each teacher is one. And one to a hundred and eighty, well i’m the teacher so you do the maths.
I have been teaching for 3 years, i currently have a year 7 tutor group made up of 28 students; I monitor 9 of them. I have not been told to do this but i do it, because i have noticed a change in behavior, they are generally difficult students to teach or they are struggling to keep up with the demands of school. Communication with these parents can vary. Some care, they are on board and willing to help, and others react as if i am a pest who is bothering them far too frequently.
Some of the difficulties i have faced with the students i have tried to help can be best described as ‘the block’. The block is my made up term, it can be used to describe both me and the student.
Students block; students refuse to open up to me, this can be down to the issue i raised above, they know i do not have time to listen for long. I think they can sense it; therefore i receive answers like “i am fine” from a student who has tears flooding down their face. Another reason i believe students block me is because they believe that i am only interested because they have been naughty and i am trying to control their behavior by showing an interest. Which some of the time is true, disruption can dramatically stunt the progress of a class. Students see their classroom teacher as their teacher and i believe that is a hurdle in itself for them to jump before opening up.
Not all students block me, some students who have formed a good relationship with me and those who i see often (my tutor group) have opened up to me about issues at home impacting their behavior.
My block is what to do next. A lot of the time i think on the spot, but as a drama teacher i have not been trained on how to help a student with such complex issues and home lives. I can guide a student on how to improve their time at school but sometimes i feel like its a counselor that needs to be speaking to the students. Someone who is trained on how to deal with the fact that your dad beats up your mum in-front of you, or being given up for adoption by your mum and dad but then being adopted by your gran who happens to live on the same road as your parents. These students need someone who is dedicated to helping them with these issues one on one. Not a teacher who is trying to keep track of a class and ensure progress all around. Each school has a safe guarding officer, but in my case even she is stretched.
This is how the system works: a student opens up to me and i refer the issue to the officer. It can then take up to 6 weeks for something to be put in place for that student. I have had a case where i requested anger management for one of my tutees and it took 6 weeks for the school to organise this. Within those 6 weeks the student pushed a girl and ended up on head of year report, (the one before exclusion).
He needs more, one hour every 2 weeks is the most my school can offer him. But he is not coping, i have watched him go from being a sweet boy, engaged and good at interacting with others, transform in to the student that every teacher complains about; doing cartwheels in lessons, refusing to work and displaying aggressive behavior. Students need someone unrelated to teaching and learning, to help them cope with adult issues; because that is what 30 percent of the students i teach tackle every day! Adult issues at a young age.
Schools need more! Budget is a big reason why these students are struggling. These issues are not seen essential to teaching and learning, therefore they are not funded. Hence the long waiting list and minimum training/ specialist within a school. However, enough is enough these students need more they need Say It With Your Chest.