Secret Teacher: I feel like more of a social worker than a teacher-
"I have three roles in my classroom: teacher, parent and social worker. Sometimes the actual teaching part is the least important."
I cannot argue with the statement made above. All teachers have felt this. Being that by state law teachers are mandated reporters, we have to report what we see and hear and many students will confide in us. When we have the empathy of a human being and the responsibilites of a social worker, the stories told below are typical and can shake you to the core. Often, we have to tell the principal/counselor/social workers what we hear but do not hear back any details, ways to help or are given peace of mind. That is a reality most teachers must share. Read on.
A child entered the classroom in floods of tears. His mother had lost her baby days before she was due to give birth. Nothing can prepare a nine-year-old for such a sense of loss, and his pain was clear for the whole class to see. I put my arm around him, ushered him away from the watchful gaze of his concerned peers and tried to find some words that might bring a shred of comfort to his broken heart. Then I had to gather my thoughts; as a parent, I couldn’t help but think how I would ever get over something like that.
That was tough to deal with, but another girl’s summer was just as traumatic for much darker reasons. She’d spent much of the holidays (and several years before), being sexually abused by a family member. I’d shared my concerns because I had a feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Indeed, it wasn’t. I was horrified and angry when I learned what this shy little girl had been through.
The two situations above are thankfully rare, and perhaps it was just an unhappy coincidence that I had to deal with them at the same time. Other situations are more commonplace, though. Another child’s mum and dad are separated but living together for financial reasons. The atmosphere at home is tense, and the girl in question recently burst into tears recalling an argument between her parents. All that mattered to her was falling apart and I had no words to help. So I did what a parent would do, I gave her a hug.
While the teaching standards are great at telling us how to teach good lessons, make accurate assessments and differentiate effectively, when it comes to addressing the emotional needs of children, they’re no help whatsoever. I have three roles in my classroom: teacher, parent and social worker. Sometimes, the actual teaching part is the least important of all. Part two of the teacher standards states that teachers must “at all times observe boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s profession”. This is suitably vague to ensure that many teachers live in fear of overstepping these boundaries. Why would you even go close when it could finish your career?
But the biggest obstacle to learning is not what’s going on in the classroom, but what’s going on outside it. Teachers across the nation face the baggage that children bring to lessons every single day and unless they feel supported to really become in loco parentis, effective teaching and learning is compromised.
We are a “good” school, but allegedly not yet outstanding because not enough pupils are making expected progress. Ofsted is not interested in the story behind her lack of progress. In the inspectorate’s eyes, that child is holding our school back and that’s a black mark against my name as their teacher.
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