As you know and I know and every teacher who has ever taught knows, our role expands beyond the classroom.
They don’t tell you this at university. They don’t let you know that the students you teach also have ENTIRE lives outside the classroom walls and those lives will affect everything that happens in your classroom. There should be a university subject on this alone. Actually a semester, because the home life, experiences, background and even breakfast of that child has a lot of impact on their learning and how you teach them.
A few years ago, my sister, who is also a teacher, worked extensively with kids in trauma. This was a difficult and challenging concept especially for people who have lived lovely, easy and happy childhoods and lives. The case is not so for millions of children around the world – even those in neat, tidy, middle class suburban homes suffer trauma that can take many shapes. While we cannot change what they have been through, it makes a world of difference for teachers to realise and understand that what happens before 9am and after 3pm determines the kind of learners your students are.
While we cannot put on our silk red capes and save everyone – we can do so much in a classroom to make a difference to every child. The one who has a terminally sick sibling. The one who is currently living in two homes due to divorce. The one who sleeps with his little sister because their neighbourhood isn’t safe. The one who doesn’t get much sleep because they have a newborn baby at home. The one whose dog just died.
It is the small things that you can do that make all the difference.
How do I know this? Think about your favourite teacher of all time. Think about who they were. Think about how they treated you. Think about what they did for you. I can almost guarantee that your favourite teacher wasn’t so because they made you read more chapters than anyone else or gave you the most homework. No, your favourite teacher cared about you and you knew it – they showed you that in the way they spoke to you and the way they treated you.
In many ways the main role of a teacher goes beyond teaching, but instead to support, advocate for and encourage the young people in our care. It is high stakes and they depend on us. Learning will only happen if they know you are for them and with them.
The ‘Beyond the Classroom’ series will delve into simple, yet powerful things we can do for every student in our classroom on a daily basis to ensure we are reaching them beyond the classroom. In Part 2, we look at the ‘not so average’ school day in the life of a small person.