Teach Kindness, Stand Strong!
Recently, I’ve been chatting to a colleague about my worries for our pupils with SEN in the ‘big bad world‘. One of the most important qualities of a teacher is love for their kids, with a desire to protect them as they grow and learn. So many of our pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities are vulnerable both physically and emotionally. We want to protect them as best we can, however often the best way we can do this through the climate we create in our classrooms. I’ve been thinking about how to develop a ‘kind classroom’ and how my SEN pupils can stand strong in tough times.
The classroom climate starts with me! My attitude, mannerisms, language and tolerance is the role model for everyone in the room (Yes, that also includes other support staff present!). To teach kindness and tolerance I must set the precedent! I try to speak to children the way I’d like them to speak to each other. On the days where I’m tired and my tolerance is low, I still must teach kindness, because I am the role model.
Teaching kindness is not a lesson in itself, it is the constant praising of good behaviour, rewarding the good manners we see and highlighting the qualities of friendship and fairness.
For our pupils with SEN, it is important to teach how to stand strong when the climate isn’t kind! Most practically, we can give strategies on how to stand strong and get help during difficult times. Here are a few suggestions:
Teach social skills. What makes a good friend? How can we be a good friend? What is not appropriate for our friends to do? Pupils with SEN may not necessarily know that the behaviour that others are displaying towards them is inappropriate!
Teach emotions. Use role plays and scenarios to talk about how others might feel and what they could do in each situation. You could provide an ’emotion-ometer’ or traffic lights for the pupil to visually display their emotions. (Teacher’s Pet have a useful ‘Feelings Fan‘ which would be perfect for this!)
Teach help scripts. Give your pupils a method to get your help, particularly for those who struggle with verbal communication. Use a ‘help’ card or symbols to share what’s wrong. Have designated points of the day where pupils have access to you 1:1 or in small groups. (Reading groups are a great opportunity for a quick check in!)