I’m not here to tell you how to teach…I leave that in your capable hands. These tips are more from the point of view of my experience regarding adoption, fostering, special needs, health and well-being. These factors all impact on a child’s ability to attach, build resilience and learn. I also continue to work with children in educational settings.
Build a relationship with the parents
Good communication with parents can empower you and the children you teach. After all most parents want what is best for their child and they have more of an impact on them than anyone else in their lives. It’s in your interest to get to know them and understand if there is anything which is likely to affect their emotional well-being. Happy children learn better.
If you can, make yourself available for five minutes chat at the end of the school day and share what’s happened. This may pay dividends in the long run.
Build relationships with your children
A positive environment in your classroom will go a long way towards your success. Show children you like them, even if you don’t appreciate their behaviour sometimes. This may sound obvious but from a child’s point of view it’s extremely powerful when they think a teacher doesn’t like them; spending an academic year with an adult who is negative towards a particular child is not going to promote learning.
It is now recognised resilient children have the best outcomes in life. A teacher can help build that resilience by showing warmth and making a connection. For children with difficult home lives, this is even more important and may make all the difference to their long term outcomes. (See my section on building resilience).
Set clear boundaries for children
If you’re having behavioural issues with your children, maybe they don’t understand what’s expected of them. Spend five minutes at the start of the day or at key moments giving clear goals. For younger children visual cues such as photographs and sand timers are more meaningful than words (useful for taking turns, sharing, thinking time etc.).The clearer you are, the more focused they can be. Having said this, I do understand sometimes there are no easy answers with challenging behaviour!
Plan for physical activity into each day.
Don’t underestimate the benefits of exercise on mental health as well as physical. This is especially so for children with ADHD; it often helps children to release tension and stress which can build if they are feeling overwhelmed. If you are an early years teacher, maths and exercise go really well together e.g. ask the children to do a certain amount of jumping jacks and count them. Use a whiteboard to write the number. Ask children to do another set of jumping jacks and write that number, then either use addition/take away signs. Ask the children to write the numbers, do the maths too. As you can imagine there are lots of variations and I’ve done this activity many times and most children enjoy it. The more you accommodate them, the better they will thrive.