I recently ventured down a new road. For the last 20 years, I have been working in a legal environment, either as a lawyer, governance specialist, or researcher. I know how to be on my own and how to work unsupervised. Things have changed drastically and maybe even dramatically since the start of the new school year…
Some background: A number of months ago I decided to change careers. The main driver behind this decision was to spend more time with my son during the summers and to have time to travel to family in South Africa and New Zealand. I decided to attempt teaching.
I completed a part of my theoretical training for students ages 3 – 6 during the summer months and started an internship with a local school. I relished the opportunity to be exposed to theoretical subjects so completely different and removed from my known world. However, over the last two weeks, I was brought back to reality and I was reminded that theory is a beautiful concept but what really matters is how one applies (or attempts to apply) it in the real world.
I have been feeling quite overwhelmed with the change in routine and “office” hours. The transition from working on my own to assisting with a large number of kids has transformed my world. What has really hit me hard is the reality of how overwhelmed kids must feel as well. No matter their age or personality type. No matter if they are new students or returning students. No matter if they are only there for a half-day or for the full day.
The change is immense and we all deal with it in different ways.
I assist kids who have never been away from their caregiver and now have to learn to trust people they barely know. Kids who are very familiar with the school but now have to deal with a new teacher or new students in their classroom. Kids who have been free to do whatever they want whenever they want to and now have to face something as scary as a routine. The list goes on.
The answer is, of course, to go back to the theory to find solutions to support these children. For some caregivers, it is as easy as spending time together talking to the kid about their day and preparing them for the change in that manner. Others might find that reading a book with their child written about a specific topic assists with preparation for the new changes they will continue to face. For some, it might not be so easy and counseling might eventually be the avenue they choose.
Even though my mother is a teacher I have never realized the time and commitment it takes to teach children. Until now. To not just teach but to be aware of the individual needs of each and every child in a classroom with sometimes limited resources available. I salute all teachers out there. Thank you for your commitment to teach, support, and love the children we entrust you with every day. I will continue my journey with a new appreciation and respect for those who teach, the administrators and counselors supporting them, and, of course, those who are taught.
Please feel free to share your experiences and approaches to these challenges with us.
I have personally found the following books very helpful in dealing with my own child’s separation anxiety:
- The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn