The other day I shared a post on social media about how, during the time my son attended school, he was upset when he completed a sheet of maths questions for his homework and the teacher refused to mark it as he had not shown his workings out. He had no idea why she was (in his eyes) angry with him and due to his slow processing could not take in her rushed explanation.
I had a reply on this post which was basically saying that all children need to show workings out and that how can you say this had a detrimental effect on your son’s mental health? Well you know what? I don’t think ‘All children should have to do anything (except eat and sleep) because all children are not the same, I think children should be taught in the way they best learn and I KNOW it had a detrimental effect on his mental health. Let me explain why..
When We got home after school that day my son broke down in tears saying that;
“My teacher must hate me because I did my homework (a massive thing for him and many autistic children), I used my best writing (not easy for a dyslexic child), and the answers were right (even though they were unmarked he knew he had got them correct) but she was angry and shouting. Why does she hate me?”
Whether she was actually shouting or not we will never know but I have no problem believing that to my son’s extremely sensitive ears it sounded like she was. From that day on it was my son’s firm belief that the teacher hated him.
A few weeks later my son could not follow the teachers instructions, and as his TA was busy she was not here to help him, my son has problems it’s auditory processing and can only process a few words at a time. He is autistic and highly anxious by nature and extra anxious because he was sat in front of a teacher who had punished him when he did things right and he didn’t understand what she wanted from him and so he just burst into tears. Her response was to go over to him and shout in his face, to refuse to allow him to use his time out card so he could go and calm down somewhere quiet. She told him that he was to stop crying as he was being a baby and that it wouldn’t get him out of doing his work and put a sad face (the mark of being naughty) next to his name on the board.
This was the first and only time that my son ever received a bad mark against his name since he started school so he was beside himself. That final act ultimately put pay to my son’s time at school and pushed his already fragile mental health over the edge after years of trying his best without the right support.
i understand that we all have our off days when we maybe feel less patient or say things we don’t mean, we all meet people including children that may irritate us because their personalities are not compatible with ours, but I can not express how much power a teacher has and they need to use that power wisely.
Now let me make it clear that I have nothing against teachers in general, no in fact some of my best friends are teachers. I get that teachers are under enormous pressure and huge work loads. Teachers are humans who have personal lives which may or may not be going smoothly. I found out after the event that the teacher I talk about here was going through a difficult bereavement for example. Teachers also have targets to hit and goals to meet and all of that must be hard, so hard in fact that it must at times be easy to forget that eduction is all about the futures of little humans who look up to them, the children for whom their word is like the word of God, what a huge responsibility that is.
In my son’s case, these two incidents were just the straw that broke the camels back. Not because of one incident or even one teacher but years of being misunderstood, told he was lazy, kept in to finish his work because he was slow at writing (he was dyslexic but not yet diagnosed), assumed to be less clever than he was (because he was so busy trying to keep together the social stuff), all chipped away at him. All those teachers having a bad day or worrying about targets or in a rush each played their little part in undermining his self esteem and self belief, all the love of learning that he had started school with had been repeatedly stamped on,until he was talking about taking his own life at 9 years old and seemly damaged beyond repair.
So I say to all teachers, the good, the bad, the disenchanted and the wonderful whatever else you do please choose your words carefully, pepper them generously with kindness, even on a bad day, even to a disruptive or disengaged student (possibly especially to a disruptive or disengaged student) because you do not know what is going on for that child, they may have an undiagnosed SEND, they may have issues at school or at home with bullying or poverty or be bereavement. I implore you to do this because we, as parents, are putting not just our children’s education but their futures and maybe even their very lives in your hands everyday.