I’ve been thinking and wrestling recently with what I have control over in my life. There are many things we can’t control. We can’t control how others behave and how the feel. We can influence and I believe we can play a part in changing people’s experience of something. However, at the end of the day we may not be able to change the circumstances.
When I think about vulnerable children and their families I have this question in my mind often – what is within my power to do? I may not be able to fix things, change the past or the present, wave a magic wand over their lives and make things better. BUT I can always do something to help.
Within schools there’s much you can’t do to change a child’s home life or their circumstances. It’s the hardest place to be; to see children and their families go through so much heartache and not be able to make it go away. I come across many educators throughout the country who are working tirelessly to change things for children and to try and give them a hope and a future. Sometimes it can be extremely frustrating and exhausting. Knowing what you can influence and what you can’t is crucial.
Here are some of the things I think Schools can do to make a huge difference in children’s lives, whatever their home or life circumstances may be:-
- Acceptance. We can show true acceptance of the child – their personalities, their hopes and dreams and their fears. It must be so hard to feel angry at your circumstances and not be able to change them. In School we can show children that however they feel they are acceptable and loved.
- Trust. It’s so important for children to know they are safe in School. To know they can trust the people around them to do the best for them and to understand their challenges. For some children they may not feel safe at home, for whatever reason. When they come through your doors, they can feel safe and maybe for the first time be able to trust people around them.
- Peace. This might seem like a strange one to say as most Schools I’ve been in are noisy, lots of moving around, people, activities – sometimes anything but peaceful. However, for some children being able to find a quiet space in the day might be in School. A time when they don’t have to be responsible for anyone else, where they can be a child. A place where they can learn for themselves and not be focused on surviving.
- Role models. We may not be able to change a child’s circumstances, but we can offer them a different perspective and view on the world. I have spoken before about the maps we have on how to live. Children learn through watching others and following their lead. In School you may be able to show a different way to live. We cannot underestimate the impact of relationships on children. We are all made for relationship. How people interact with us informs our feelings about how worthy we are. ALL children need to know they are loved and that they belong.
- Fun. Learning is fun. When I think back to my School days, I can’t remember much about fun being involved. For vulnerable children who are concentrating on surviving the day they need to know it’s important to laugh and to have fun. We learn through fun I really believe. Too many children coming into our Reception classes don’t know how to play and be children. Once we stop creating or risking making mistakes, we loss the core of who we are. Schools should be a place of play, fun and learning.
Of course, there’s probably lots more I could say about how you can make a difference in children’s lives, but I want to finish with one question. Ask yourself this throughout your week – you may be surprised at the answer. It may also take away some of the frustration and overwhelm when trying to help families.
What is within my power to influence right now?