The Home and School Relationship
- By Ursula Jamieson, Principal of St Thomas the Apostle Primary School, Kambah
YOU don’t have to look too far in the media to read articles, stories and reports about violence and bullying in schools aimed at teachers and principals. It’s not only the students doing this, it can often be the parents.
This occurs across the board and is not limited to schools in any particular socio-economic area. It’s part of the education environment in 2019. There is no doubt it is on the rise and that teachers are leaving the profession because of it.
In my personal experience as a principal, I have only witnessed this to a small degree, though it is occurring. Children are presenting with higher levels of anxiety and this is due in many ways to the high-pressure world they and their parents live in.
While there are various avenues of support that can be accessed both professionally and in the community, there are also positive things happening in our schools to alleviate these pressures on our students and their families. As a principal, I work hard at ensuring that strong and positive relationships are at the heart of everything we do – students, staff, parents and carers.
When I interview new families, I tell the parents that we enrol a family, not just a child. We work together for the good of the child and when things are going well, we rejoice and when they are not, we work together to improve the situation.
Many schools now have staff trained in the area of trauma – being a ‘trauma informed school’.
When you hear the word trauma, it’s common to think’ tragic and extreme circumstances’. However, when we talk trauma at a school level, we are talking about the ’emotional response to an event, experience or circumstance that is deeply distressing or disturbing’.
For our students, that takes many forms. Children can be exposed to or be involved in such things as a family break-up, abuse, neglect, the death of family member or someone close to them, accidents, mental illness, alcoholism, poverty.
The list is much longer but this gives the picture of what I am talking about. These are real factors faced by many children in our schools on an everyday basis. For some children, the school is their one constant in life and for others it’s where they feel the safest.
This brings me to the heart of my article – relationship. Every day, teachers welcome their students and are well aware that for some, it’s been a tough morning already.
Teachers do what is called a ‘check in’ with their students and find out straight away how they are feeling, if they are ready to start the day, if they need some time or space, or if they need to be listened to. Multiply that by 25 and you will see quickly that teachers do a brilliant job of understanding and responding to their students’ needs.
Students learn quickly that their teachers care about them and genuinely want to know about how they are each day. At my school, St Thomas the Apostle, we are blessed to have a Wellbeing Counsellor, Veronica Harris.
Veronica is there as a support for the children in our school by being that person who can give that extra time to listen, give advice, and generally offer social and emotional support. She will also talk with the children’s parents and carers and for them, can be that sympathetic ear of understanding as well as being able to offer advice and direction on how they can support their children.
Veronica works one-on-one and in small groups with children needing a little extra help. She teaches children techniques to help them understand and control their emotions and also gives them strategies to cope with the frustrations of everyday life.
As a principal, strong positive relationships with my parents is every bit as important as the relationships I have with the students and the staff.
By having an open and genuine relationship with the parents of the children within my school, there is a positive avenue for working together to ensure the social, emotional, spiritual and academic well-being and growth of their children. I not only believe that these relationships makes a difference, I know that they do.
Beautifully expressed, Ursula. It is so important for the different parties in a child’s education (including parents or carers, teachers and school staff, grandparents and others in the extended family) to remember the importance of relationships, the skill of tuning in to the child’s real world. I am thrilled (but not even a bit surprised) to hear that it is happening at St Thomas the Apostle – and that you have a Well-being Counsellor. Keep up the great work.
Thanks Dennis. I did have a great principal as a role model when I was a young teacher as St John the Apostle school.