Seven ways to know that your child is learning in a classroom promoting good mental health. You can ask your child and her friends how this happens in their classroom by posing a few simple questions or, if you are worried about something, making an appointment to see the teacher.
Does the teacher:
1. Get to know every child in your class?
Taking some time each week to learn a new fact about each child and sharing likes and dislikes can make them feel really valued and supported.
2. Encourage every child to have a voice?
Often it’s the same children putting their hands up to answer a question. Discuss with the teacher what she does to counteract this if your child is not one of the confident ones.
3. Encourage play to foster creativity, collaboration and problem solving?
Listen to what your child has done throughout the day. Playing is so important.
4. Create a calm atmosphere where all feelings are allowed?
Give feelings an appropriate outlet. Put boundaries in place around behaviours to keep everyone safe and develop strategies to help reinforce those boundaries. For example, let children know that they are allowed to feel happy, angry, sad or whatever other emotion they may be feeling, but that they are not allowed to bully or hit. When addressing undesirable behaviour, help both the child concerned and the other children in the class to understand that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways of dealing with difficult emotions. Learning to identify these will come in time as the children are supported in identifying and accepting their feelings.
5. Help a child move on from a negative experience?
Sometimes it’s important to help children to see past the latest disastrous playtime or bad lesson and focus instead on the bigger picture. Do they really want to end the friendship with their best friend over the argument they had at playtime? If your child has had a negative experience, ask what the teacher said to help improve the situation.
6. Take learning outside and make it active?
Exploring places of worship, streetscapes, architecture, local businesses, museums, galleries, parks and shopping centres all provide rich experiences that provide an immediately engaging environment and provide many opportunities for learning.
7. Discuss the feelings of book characters?
This is something we can all do with our offspring. Ask is there a better way they could have reacted? What led up to the crisis point? Analysing the actions and reactions of characters in a number of stressful situations can support children in identifying how they themselves react in certain situations and how they might react more positively next time. It’s also important to share stories that directly encourage empathy, sympathy and kindness in order to foster these traits in children.
Becky Cranham, a former primary school teacher, is Lead Resource Creator of PlanBee, an education resources website.