Teachers: do you pass the test that children and young people set?

Working with children and young people can be one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet or one of the most frustrating and difficult! When we, as the active adults working with tomorrow’s adults feel that our relationship is collaborative and strong, there is mutual respect and everything is pretty much going as we would like it to be, teaching can bring out our best qualities allowing us to be more than a teacher, a life coach guiding and nudging them into a more positive adulthood.

This formula becomes almost self-satisfying with regards to typically developing children and young people. However…within our school environment we also have the children, who are more complex and come to school needing more guidance and nudging than their more developed peers. These are the children who can alter the equilibrium of the ideal teaching environment. These students can at times bring out the worst in us and trigger feelings of frustration, inadequacy and resentment.

This is where the test comes in!

All children and young people are learning every minute of every day (though it might not always be on the GCSE curriculum that you need them to be on!) They are learning from parents, peers, you. They are seeking out knowledge on interaction, relationships, emotions. They are observing who makes them feel good, why people might make them feel bad and all the while creating an perceived image of their world around them. You contribute to that image. Some of you will splash on colour, warmth, belief. Sometimes we might be responsible for adding blander shades, or unconsciously delaying developing scenes. When children are having a difficult moment or day, their behaviour becomes your test.

They will wonder if you are going to write them off like other people have done in the past. They want to see if you are going to react in the same way that other people have done at times. They desperately hope that you will be different. Children want you to pass. By passing the test we teach our children an alternative. We begin to create changes in the brain that support emotional development. We change how children think and feel. Sometimes as teachers we think one of our major roles is to educate our young people through words. However in years to come, your students will forget what you said to them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. How we make children and young people feel becomes the test. So… do you pass the test?

Little actions that can help in a big way!

  • Accept that children are children and that the perfect teaching environment can exist when children feel happy, loved and safe


  • Don’t let your negative perceptions about what and why a child or young person is doing what they are doing change how you present. Remember they want you to pass


  • See children as colleagues. If a colleague did something that upset or offended you how might you approach them it with them? Would it be different to how you challenge a child? If so could it be different?


  • Incorporate transactional analysis into how you interact with children. If you converse with them with you in authoritarian adult, they are more likely to kick against it as a distressed child. Interact as an adult and you
    will communicate with their inner adult role which is more likely to hear what you are saying as you make them feel respected


Next time: The psychology of verbal interaction.