What You Don’t See Is Just As Important As What You Do

Over the years I have lost count of the number of times that I have been asked to have conversations with other staff or observe their lessons to figure out why a child is struggling.

It’s something I love to do, especially if it is the teachers themselves who invite me. After all, there is no greater privilege than being asked into someone else’s world.

The truth is I don’t have any special powers, or a sixth sense. 

I am in fact as my children and Other Half would definitely assure you, very much a mere mortal. 

But what I do is to look and listen. And when I mean listen, I mean really listen. I have two aims, the first is to find out what is happening and the second is to find out what isn’t. 

Because the truth is what you don’t see is just as important as what you do.

The child sat silently doing their work whilst the rest of the class chats is every bit as much a concern to me as the child disrupting the class. I want to know why they are following the rules to the letter, and more importantly why there is no-one they want to chat to enough to break those rules.

The toddler walking alone around the playground whilst others run and chase each other, alerts me just as much as the one who lashed out. I want to know who they interact with and when. And I want to see it with my own eyes.

All too often flags are raised about children who are seen – for whatever reason – as disruptive, but those children who are quiet are missed. And those are the children I worry about.

Because the truth with, many of those young people are displaying every bit as much anxiety as the child who is vocalising their anxiety, but instead of displaying it in public, they hide it and push it inside.

It’s why when teachers tell concerned parents that a child displaying extreme anxiety at home is ‘fine in school’ I always ask them to look more closely. To think more closely. To investigate more closely. 

And then, even if they still can’t see anything not to assume that that anxiety doesn’t exist.

Instead we need to carry on listening, and looking, and in the meantime do all we can to reduce anxiety. For some young people that will mean creating light moments during the day, for others it will mean adding in a sensory diet, and for others it will just mean letting them know you are there if they need you.

It’s easy as a teacher to get focused on results, on data, on what we can see.

But never forget, that what you can’t see, is for some young people what will change their worlds.

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