Helping students understand the wider world 14 Apr 2022

School staff are so much more to the children they teach than most people realise. Although they are there to educate first and foremost, they are also key in helping children to understand the world around them.

This has been a vital part of the role of teachers and other members of school staff over the past few years. The bewildering and frightening effects of the pandemic were a lot for children to understand.

Some were afraid to come back to school. And for others, school might be the only place they get answers to their questions about what’s going on in the world and what it means for their lives. But just as we were emerging from the last of the pandemic-related restrictions, Russia invaded Ukraine. Children – like all of us – have found this a very alarming prospect, and struggle to make sense of what is happening.

Here at Thank a Teacher, we get to see the many messages of gratitude sent to teachers who have helped students understand the wider world. Like this one sent by the parent of a student at Redden Court School in Romford:

“We would like to thank Mr Fox.  At the time of writing this, Ukraine has been invaded by Russia. Many of the children were very anxious about the situation and so Mr Fox took time after school to try to answer any questions that the children had. My daughter came home feeling much more informed and reassured. Thank you Mr Fox!”

 

Reassurance in troubling times

The parent who sent this message told us her daughter was very worried about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During their history lesson, students asked Mr Fox what was happening and whether he thought there would soon be another world war. Seeing how anxious the students were, Mr Fox told them he would stay back after school, explain it all to them and answer any of their questions.

Ben Fox, Head of History at Redden Court and teacher of 8 years, said:

“I always try and foster an open environment in my classroom, where students feel able to raise debate and have discussions. I’m glad they felt they could ask me about this and that I could help them. It was such a lovely surprise to get the thank you message, but it was great to know that something I did had an impact and settled a student’s mind. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what we’re here to do.”

The parent who sent the message told us:

“My three older children were also taught by Mr Fox. He’s always been really approachable and draws on his knowledge of history to help kids make sense of what is going on in the world. There’s never a silly question and kids seem to have the confidence to ask whatever’s on their mind. Mr Fox had a great influence on my older children too. He encouraged them to have aspirations and get out there and see the world. And they have. It’s great.”

 

Instilling confidence

Part of the school’s philosophy is to create an atmosphere in the classroom where kids are happy to make mistakes and learn from them, where they see constructive feedback as the norm. Ben wants his students to not be afraid to take risks:

“I tell my students that the most important thing is to explore their ideas, especially as history is never black and white. It’s all shades of grey. It’s important that the kids never feel like their answer is stupid. Everything is a discussion. We need to challenge those echo chambers that a lot of students live in. We need to show them other perspectives. Then, we can open up debate, and kids feel confident to ask questions and challenge ideas.”

And it was no doubt this confidence and the relationship Ben has with his students has meant they’re not afraid to ask about things that are troubling them.

Children often seek reassurance from school staff, who do so much more than teach lessons. They safeguard, they nurture, and they instil confidence and respect for others.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget all the great work schools do to offer stability and safety to students every day. But we know of countless examples where teachers and other staff go out of their way to help the children they teach.

 

Can you think of a member of school staff or a team you’d like to thank? You can send them a free thank you message now.

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