The Home Visit
From our position inside the school, we can sometimes assume that we understand the circumstances of the children that we serve. We should always strive to know more, and to appreciate that we may actually know very little about someone else's journey.
One of the biggest risks that a teacher can face is the prospect of disconnecting with the audience and forgetting what it feels like to be a child. This will unknowingly creep up on all of us as we grow and teach. We can easily overlook how children may perceive things differently and the significance that they may place on seemingly simple things.
'Sometimes the only way to find out more about a child is to do a home visit and to see them in their own special place.'
I did a home visit once. I wanted to go and see a young man who was finding things difficult in school. He lived a few floors up in a small block of flats. We were welcomed in and things began to make sense. My little friend was very excited to see us. He took us into his bedroom and while he bounced on his bed, I looked around the room. No books, wallpaper or toys. Empty. In the corner, a simple mattress on the floor, with some loose bedding.
'If you want to seek to improve a pupil's behaviour, visit them at home. It takes a bit of your time, but it's a lot less stressful than sitting down after a bad day and trying to work it out.'
As I took a moment to assess things, I spotted something remarkable. On the wall, surrounding his pillow, a huge collection of brightly coloured stickers. Some slightly torn and tired, carefully removed from a school jumper and some lovingly peeled from the pages of a school book. Every reward from every adult since the day he started school. Every reference to every little achievement.
This represents the significance that a 7 year old will place on a seemingly simple and common gesture that we would often make in the interest of acknowledging efforts. We must never underestimate the power of our praise and that each sticker represents a very special exchange. An acknowledgement of value, worth and success, from someone very important in their lives - you.
The WIN / WIN
There is no doubt that little was solved on the day of the visit. But as myself and my colleague left the flat, we talked about what impact these circumstances could have on social and emotional development. Our empathy and determination to succeed, renewed and strengthened.
Our relationship with the family was healthy and we were building trust. This would mean that the professional decisions that we could make could be supported from home and not perceived to be unsympathetic or institutionalised. We were clearly on the same team and although there was some strain, it was not presented by either parties as anyone's fault.
We began to understand to more about the boy. This is very significant because we could make sure that any conversations would be sympathetic and logical. We could avoid judging or demonising poor behaviour and it helped us to operate from a position of compassion. We could be solution focused, fair and philosophical under pressure.