I have a student who is going through a traumatic experience right now. I probably have multiple students for whom this is true and there are, of course, many, many more students everywhere facing a variety of awful things. However, this child's issue was just shared with me and it is tearing me up inside.
(For simplicity's sake I'm going to use the feminine pronoun here because I have more girls in my class than boys.)
I know about what is going on in her life, I've been in touch with the family, the administration is involved, various outside agencies are helping out, our counselor is getting in the mix. We're on top of this.
However, I'm left wondering how best to help her. Does she need me to continue on as though things are fine and keep teaching her first grade stuff? Would it be better if I backed off of academics and spent more time just caring about her? Is it possible to do both? How do I know what to do? My fabulous co-teacher told me that we have to follow the girl's lead to know. Too true. I just hope I'm able to recognize where she wants us to go.
One of the hardest things I've had to learn as a teacher, is that the kindest, most caring, most loving thing I can do is show that a normal life is possible-- that not everything will be taken a way with murder, abuse, loss or severe illness. I've had to learn that my children need my compassion, but not my pity. To feel sorry for a child can be crippling-- to have compassion is lifesaving. I can tell you've done everything right. Now give her the sense of competence that only a compassionate teacher can give. Good luck to her-- and good luck to you.
I'm not a teacher yet, just an aspiring teacher working my way through school. Reading blogs like yours helps to prepare me for the real world of teaching- thank you for sharing your experiences.
I agree that the best thing for a young child with trauma is to keep the other parts of his/her life as normal as possible. I think it is important that you do let the child know that he/she can find comfort and trust in you but other than that, school may become a safe haven because of the consistent environment.
Being a student teacher currently, I wonder what I would do?.? Is it best to just back off of her, or can you continue instruction to keep continuity? My wife just dealt with a student that had tragedy in his family, and it has definitely played into how she plans and the instruction she provides.
Sometimes maintaining consistency and normalcy is the best thing you can do. Assuming the rest of her life is unstable and unpredictable she probably craves what it is that you already give her. You provide a safe, nurturing environment that allows her to be just like everyone else. I think you probably do so much more for her than you give yourself credit for.
I don't know you or this situation but I have dealt with kids like this before. Sometimes in the process of trying to help we end up treating the kid differently than everyone else. This makes them uncomfortable and feeds into the helplessness. Knowing that every child is different you may just need to take your partners advice and just follows the child's cues. Best of luck!
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