My adopted daughter is now 18 and in her second year of college. Today we were discussing her experiences in school since starting in Primary and we came up with the 5 things she’d like teachers to know – whether in Primary, Secondary or College. These are her words….
- People are important. I had a teaching assistant in Secondary School who knew me very well. She spent lots of time helping me to understand and she knew when things got a bit too much for me. If an adult is wondering how to help someone like me they need to give us the opportunity to open up when we want to. It means a lot to me to know that some teachers felt compassion for me and my situation. It made it easier for me to feel safe at school. I find it very hard to trust people as my early experiences taught me not to trust. So, when people let me down it knocks my wall of trust down and when it’s rebuilt it’s weaker. I need people to know that it’s really hard to open up to people and when I do there is a worry that the person will break that trust.
- We need help with relationships. In Secondary School and at College sometimes I have struggled with bullying and have needed help from the staff to manage this. In Secondary School it was really bad, some teachers listened but didn’t seem to do anything and others told me to stop bothering them about it. I tried to stay away from the bully but it’s very hard to do without adult help. I also sometimes find it hard to make friends with other children who could be a good influence on me. I need help to do this too.
- Patience. I need time and space to process things before I understand them. The way school’s pressure you sometimes makes it harder to concentrate. I know that my brain takes longer than other students to work things out. The way you can help me is by giving me time and teaching me in lots of different ways.
- Teach me about life. Now I am 18 I am trying to understand how the adult world works and School could have helped me with money, work, houses etc. In Primary I missed some of the basics about numeracy due to moving around and not being able to concentrate and feeling anxious. As a result, I never caught up with my maths and all the Schools I attended tried to help me catch up, but what I really need now is the basics of budgeting and handling money. College is better as they are preparing me, but I would have liked this sooner to help me now. I know I have a home and parents to help me but when you move around as a looked after child it gets harder to trust people that are close to you to help you.
- Encourage my strengths. I struggle with lots of things at School, but I am also good at some things. I need help though to encourage my strengths to develop. For example, I love to sing and have a good voice, but I needed help at Secondary School to join clubs, come out of my comfort zone and get over my fear. If I had I might have left school with more confidence. I didn’t pass any of my GCSEs except music, even then that could have been a much better grade if I’d have had more help. People just assume I can volunteer for things but sometimes the anxiety is too much, and I need someone to guide me.
I hope this helps those working with adopted children and young people. I’m sure some of my daughter’s points are not limited to adoptees – many of our children struggle with anxiety, lack of trust in others, struggles with relationships and feeling a lack of confidence. Maybe we could all take some pointers from the children and young people we live or work with.