This week I’m excited to have invited my first Early Years teacher, Yasmeen Multani, as our guest blogger.
A fellow twitterer @wellbeingEyears, Yasmeen works with 0-8yrs, focusing on wellbeing for all – this blog gives some practical insights on how we ensure our classrooms are safe – physically and emotionally, as we return to school buildings.
When classrooms are safe and secure all children, and young people have a desire to learn. Safety is not just physical, though; emotional safety is equally as important. Through our careful risk assessments, conducted daily, we ensure the learning environment is physically safe. However, we must create emotionally safe environments, too – but –
– What is an emotionally safe environment?
It starts and ends with us; the educators who have the privilege of working with children and young people. No one has ever claimed that supporting children’s well-being during difficult moments is easy. On the contrary, trying to maintain a ‘smiley’ face when a child has just hit you is hard. However, the way we often describe children’s behaviour has little to do with the child. Instead, the child’s behaviour is often characterised by how it makes us feel. When we describe a child’s behaviour as ‘challenging’, this is more about our experience of the child’s behaviour. Our responses to the child’s behaviour overwhelm our capacity to respond in a calm and compassionate way. Thus, effectively adding more stress to a child who’s well-being levels are at that moment virtually zero.
First and foremost, we need to regulate our own responses before expecting a child or young person to regulate theirs.
Some children have already returned to school during a global pandemic, and many more will be returning to school soon.
Now more than ever before, it is essential that educators self-regulate before supporting distressed children.
Whilst away from school, many children may well have experienced trauma. Many children will have had physical and emotional distancing from extended family and their friends. Additionally, they may have also experienced pain that they can barely understand or speak about.
With trauma being associated with lasting changes to areas of the brain, it is essential for educators to be calm and predictable, despite the challenges we all face.
Due to schools across the country being closed for all except a few, there is currently ‘top-down’ pressure to ‘hit the ground running’ – children have missed learning.
However, the concept of ‘missed learning’ is a problematic one as children are always learning wherever they might be. Even learning to be bored has its benefits!
Indeed, what children have missed is progress towards attainment targets of a specific curriculum. Yes, this will make it difficult for children to pass the tests that they are required to take. However, at this time, what children need is ‘recovery’, not ‘catch up’; and children’s emotional well-being must be the priority. We certainly do not need a ‘recovery curriculum’, rather what is needed is for educators to respond ‘in the moment’ to a child’s needs whilst understanding what is important for them.
Educators who are involved in a continuous process of reflection and not afraid to look critically at situations in the classroom.
Please get to know your children again and fascinate them with activities that you know will interest them; it is this that will facilitate high levels of well-being and involvement.
School staff across the country have spent a lot of time considering how to get most children back into school. Classroom layouts have been altered, entry and exit points have changed, and children will stay in their ‘bubbles’ throughout the day. Inevitably, this may impact on children’s well-being.
Social distancing must not mean emotionally distancing, the environment will undoubtedly need to change, but children still need a teacher who responds intuitively to their needs. Make learning fun – do lots of singing during the regular handwashing! Turn the physical distancing into a story. Keep yourselves safe and children too but in a fun way.
You do not need to spend time completing well-being audits; we just need to look at the child’s eyes!
It is very easy to see when a child is highly engaged in learning and happy too. If unsure, just go into any playground and observe! After being an educator for so long, I know that high levels of progress are possible when children’s well-being levels are high.
Yasmeen is an Early Years teacher with a passion for ensuring all children have high levels of well-being. An autistic teacher who completely understands the many challenges that children face in their lives. Never afraid to speak out concerning children’s rights.
A contribution has been made to Yasmeen’s charity of choice, UNICEF as a thank you for this guest blog.