‘I didn’t train to be a teacher

When the government introduced its well-intentioned ‘Every Child Matters’ policy, its goal was to combine education with social care in order to better protect children.

Traditionally, the role of a teacher was twofold – to teach the academic curriculum and to model social skills such as managing friendships, sharing, and taking turns. What is required in today’s classroom is a great deal more complex and considerably more challenging.

During the five years Una spent working systemically and therapeutically in inner city schools, she witnessed the increasing demands made on teachers. They are expected not only to deliver the curriculum but also to manage the psychology and behaviour of some very troubled children. They trained as teachers, not as psychotherapists or social workers. Behavioural management workshops can offer inspiring messages and ideas, but once back in the classroom, teachers often find it difficult to implement their own raised expectations, especially with so little time made available for the emotional and social curriculum.

Having spent a number of years as a teacher in the UK and abroad, Una began to realise a need for practical skills and therapeutic techniques that could be used simply, effectively, and routinely by teachers in the classroom.

Children are members of two very different communities – the private community of the family and the public sphere of the school. When children cross the threshold of the school gates, they bring with them their family circumstances, whether supportive or burdensome. Their ability to engage in the classroom and in the playground is dependent upon how well they are able to manage and integrate what may be a very difficult home life.

Children’s unconscious loyalty to their families is profound, however disturbed their personal situations may be. How can teachers accept a family loyalty they may judge to be misplaced and inappropriate in terms of life values and moral choices?

How can teachers balance the academic and behavioural requirements of the classroom and the often conflicting messages modelled in the home?

To learn more about Una’s work in the classroom, follow the Articles and Essays link to ‘The Stones of Belonging’ – working systemically in primary schools.