Letter from one of our exceptional trainers
One of our exceptional trainers has written the below letter for you to share with your team and pass on to your schools, as a reminder of how to keep all your young people in mind and provide safety, as we come towards the end of the school year.
It is that time of year when you wish you were somewhere other than the classroom – sitting in a quiet lounge with the luxury of air-conditioning or possibly on a beach with an expanse of blue sea not far from your toes. So it isn’t always easy to do that mentalising of students and acknowledge that – for some – the summer break from the school buildings will be tough and they will struggle without those people who routinely inhabit them and provide a go-to place when they seek to reassure themselves of safety. What makes it even more difficult is that these may be the same children who sometimes take off from classrooms like enraged jets, leaving trails of red mist along the corridors and crisscrossing the playground. They give every appearance of rejecting all the security that you and your colleagues offer them – and yet they hang around the buildings after the school day ends, playing hide-and-seek with the school caretaker who is trying to lock up for the day.
Those of you with family liaison officers in your staff team may access occasional insights into the home life of a student or pupil – so you have a better idea as to why that young person is going to find the summer holidays difficult. Yet the spectrum of those for whom school is their lifeline and the adults in it the biggest factor in their survival is a very broad one, encompassing children in private education and expensive boarding schools as well as those in socially and economically impoverished areas. So we are writing now to wish you a happy summer vacation (still thinking air-conditioning and beach!) but also to offer some suggestions as to how you might be able to maintain a remote link with those children who, in ways social and antisocial, have communicated to you the awfulness of their lives out of school. Even without such a connection, it may still be that your time on the sun lounger is interrupted by thoughts of certain students.
Through our links with schools, we heard how many teachers and TAs/LSAs had kept in touch with children during the lockdowns by sending them cards. The messages they contained were usually brief but they let the child know that Sir or Miss was holding them in mind and looking forward to a time when they could all meet up again in school. Such reminders are powerful aids to self-esteem for children whose well-being is not prioritised in their birth family and they seem to be on no-one’s radar screen. Other teachers ask the child to take home something from the classroom (ideally not something irreplaceable, precious, or that needs feeding and looking after!) and bring it back at the beginning of the new term.
At the end of every term, one school counsellor would hand out a lanyard with a biro attached to each of her young clients and ask them to write down (or draw a picture) of anything that happened during the holiday that they would like to talk about in their first session of the following term. The lanyards were identical to the one the counsellor wore around the school and therefore something of a reminder of the counsellor’s ongoing commitment to accompanying them on their journey to better-being. The cost was minimal and if they were lost or broken there was no comeback – the idea was simply to provide a physical reminder of an often unacknowledged safety net.
Some of you may have your own ideas and strategies for providing safety – in which case do let us know about them so we can circulate to others.