Just over a month ago, I wrote this post: The Part That is True It is about a boy named “Harry” and how he learns, what he needs and how he is viewed. It is about how we honour each child. About adult judgement. About asking ourselves as educators: Is my classroom safe and inclusive for all learners?
I wrote this post because I needed to write it. I needed to put what I was feeling into words and I needed to strengthen my resolve to continue advocating for all of the children like Harry who will walk through my classroom door and be a part of my life. That this post spoke to so many others was more than encouraging. The comments and feedback gave me hope and allowed me to engage with so many about how we work with the children in our classrooms.
But something else happened. Some teachers contacted me privately and talked about their struggles to support some of the students in their room. It wasn’t about the child so much as the system. The lack of supports. Other staff who didn’t share their philosophy. They talked about overwhelming needs, safety concerns and children who are experiencing a lot of stress.
Two things struck me. One, always the frustration was not about the child. Two, we don’t often talk about this. At least not out in the open.
Part of it is that so many of us who are sharing about what happens in our classrooms and schools, focus on the positive. And so we should. We highlight and showcase the wonderful. This speaks to our optimism. Our ability to find joy in the everyday landscape of a learning community. It is where we start each day and what we carry with us to be able to keep doing and loving this work.
Another part is that by talking about our struggles with upset and behaviour, we are cautious. We want to protect privacy. We don’t want to judge. We don’t want to tell the story that sometimes things are really hard. Because even though it is about what children do, we know it is about so much more.
And I think we also feel in some ways like it is an admission of not being able to cope. That if things are challenging, we are not managing. It takes large amounts of inner strength to take a breath in the middle of a child’s “outburst” and say, “This is about so much more than me.” And then to take charge, ensure safety, and help to keep everyone’s self worth intact.
It is easy to think this isn’t happening in other classrooms. I consistently share moments of happiness and joy and celebration. But the truth is that there is also drama and trauma.
Honestly, sometimes I read blog posts from other educators and think, wow. Wow, but how do they do that? I can’t get there because of things that are going on. Like the challenges transitioning back in from recess. The child who can’t manage change and is under the desk. The child who won’t come on that beautiful nature walk and so we all need to go back inside because we don’t have the staff to supervise everyone. From the conversations I have been having with other educators, other people are feeling exactly the same thing. They are also making the assumption that the struggles are not happening in these other classrooms that are so full of learning and passion.
My classroom is where beautiful learning happens. Joy. Happiness. Growth.
But, what also happens here?
Sometimes large amounts of upset. Aggression. Crying. Screaming. Hiding. Under the table. Behind a shelf. In the cloakroom. Running out of the room. Refusing to come in from outside. Games get thrown to the ground. A carefully constructed tower is kicked over. There has been biting. Pushing. Pinching. A few times we have had to get everyone out of the room and call for help to deescalate a child.
Those things also happen. In my room.
This post is not about all of these questions: Why? Who is responsible? How do we fix it? Those are big questions that I am not tackling now.
This post is just to remind us all that we are not alone. As we teach and learn and work with children – through the joy and the challenges, we are all in this together.