Imagine for a moment you are a teacher and a child came into your class each day constantly crying and traumatised…
Some days this child will not speak and just hides under the table unable to tell you what is wrong. When asked to do anything the child may explode into hysterical crying or other days into violence towards you.
As time goes on this child comes into school seemingly happily and then burst into tears or becomes unresponsive once in the classroom, saying they are having an awful time at home. When it is time to go home the child has to be bribed or dragged out to his mother. As she hauls him off he mouths ‘help me’ at you. Of course you approach the parents and they said everything is fine, he is just over sensitive, he is never like this at home, and that the school must be doing something to upset him.
So stuck for ideas you approach the child who says his parents are bullying him, they expect to much of him, they ask him to do things but explain in a way he doesn’t understand and then he is punished for not doing them and told he is naughty. The child gets more and more distressed and even talks about suicide.
You are really worried about this child now right? You really want to help……….
You approach the parents again and again over weeks and months, they say he just needs pushing harder, that he gets all the care he needs at home and he just takes advantage by not doing what he is told. They have never seen him looking unhappy anyway and they see no reason to change as to be any softer would be giving in and he was never going to grow up that way.
Some days they say that the school should follow their lead and not stand for it. Other days they tell you that you are making the whole thing up and that they are going to make a complaint to you to the parent governors and get you removed from your post as you are unfit to teach, you are seeing problems where there are none.
So as that child’s teacher are you considering ringing the social services yet? Does this seem to you like a school or home related problem? Do these parents seem reasonable and appropriately concerned about their child?
Unbelievable right? Yet this scenario plays out day in day out in reverse, with children begging their parents, fighting their parents and threatening suicide because they can not face school. Children coming home and breaking down because of their day at school. These children often manage to look OK to the casual observer because they want to keep there heads down so they hide their distress and only tell their parents when they get home.
Parents are then in turn tell teaching staff and are either told their child is fine, that they are exaggerating, the child is wilful, lazy or over protected or that the parent is making it up. Most of all they are told it is not the schools fault and it must be an issue at home.
Sometimes (as in our case) these parents are threatened with prosecution, prison or foster care because their child can’t attend school and/or social services are called because the school believes they are attempting to medicalising their child. Many of these children are either awaiting diagnoses, have a diagnoses or their parents have muted that they feel their child need support at school and/or a diagnoses.
Now tell me is this a rational response to a child who is stating clearly where the problem lies?
For more on the subject of school please take a look these other blog posts of mine: