Ian is an award-winning writer, editor, speaker, innovator and the founder of Independent Thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia and has a privileged view of education and education systems globally.
Let the Children Heal You
Among our Associates are practising teachers and school leaders. We asked some of them about their thoughts on how things are now - and what happens when children go back to school.
Here are 33 points that came up.
- Transitional objects are important. Emotional resilience can be derived from physical things.
- Always hug with both hands and say goodbye properly. Just in case…
- Grief is a private thing and perhaps an assembly is the worst time and place to address it.
- Is there a space in your school that children (and adults) can go to when they just need to breathe?
- It’s not only OK to show your authentic self, it’s important (see The Guardian article 'It's OK for teachers to cry': how to handle bereavement in school’).
- Crying just means you’re passionate about your school and its community. You can be passionate without tears too of course. Just don’t be someone you’re not.
- When you don’t know what to do, follow your intuition – you’re stronger than you think you are.
- Plan your Recovery Curriculum - wonderful books, plenty of PSHE, giving everyone time…
- Music, dancing and all aspects of creativity are wonderful tools for coming together and healing.
- Don’t instruct children not to hug or frighten them when they run to you to hug you (as they will). Instead, teach them alternatives such as blowing a kiss, a no-touch greeting from around the world such as ‘Namaste’ and the proven power of self-hugging.
- Lead with your heart, now more than ever.
- Seek out the benefits of this time and the legacy that we will be left with. Without growth, we just have the pain.
- Plan your big community party now for whenever it will be safe to hold it.
- Keep chipping away at the relationships – ring children and families regularly. Feel proud when they all stop and ask how you are.
- Keep a watchful eye – and encourage all staff to do the same – when it comes to topics that may be triggers.
- Create an atmosphere across the school where the child who suddenly needs to walk out of a lesson, when the topic is too hard for them, can do so safely and with dignity. They will come back.
- Different children will need different approaches when it comes to grieving – it is not one size fits all.
- How will you know what children need? Just ask them.
- Remember, we are educating children for the long haul, not the short term.
- There are schools where ’catching up’ is not even on the agenda. And that’s OK.
- There are school whose priority is not about ‘filling the gaps’. And that’s OK.
- ‘What are you going to do about your assessment report?’ ‘We’re going to write "The children did brilliantly". That's all'. And that’s more than OK.
- Make sure you get the governors on side.
- The ‘soft stuff’ - talking about feelings, about emotions, about fear, about death,… - is actually the ‘hard stuff’.
- What you feel is what you learn – emotions are central to learning and even more so now.
- If we don’t let them heal now, what sort of adults will we end up with?
- It’s OK to let off steam and ‘vent’ – choose your moments and your support well, but do it. It’s natural and it helps and. After all, better out than in.
- Remember it is not about teachers and leaders and parents and children, it’s about humans.
- Is yours a self-caring school? Is self-care discussed, expected and encouraged? What do you do to self-care – socially, physically, emotionally, with your family?
- It is important to practise ‘proper selfishness’.
- Are you finding the beauty in this moment, in the things to enjoy, in the gift of this pause?
- Learn how to ‘hold the space’ when you are with a grieving and troubled human - don’t talk, don’t try to stop the tears, don’t try and resolve or fix, just listen, just be.
- Let the children heal you. Let the children guide you. Listen to them.
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