I have worked on a daily basis with children who have ASD, ADD, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, pathological demand avoidance, language and communication delays, processing disorders and so on within my classroom over the last 26 years. As a result of working with these children, I have worked with a variety of internal and external professionals both within the school's special needs and base communications departments and outside professionals who come in to work with individuals and give training to teachers on disorders which may be very specific to the child. As a result I have been able to dev... Read More
I have worked on a daily basis with children who have ASD, ADD, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, pathological demand avoidance, language and communication delays, processing disorders and so on within my classroom over the last 26 years. As a result of working with these children, I have worked with a variety of internal and external professionals both within the school's special needs and base communications departments and outside professionals who come in to work with individuals and give training to teachers on disorders which may be very specific to the child. As a result I have been able to develop ways of working with children who do not process in the same way that most people do and I have learnt to celebrate these differences and appreciate that we are all equal, just not the same. I commit to making it my duty to access appropriate resources and training for the students in my care.
Additionally, I have been increasingly met with students who have crippling anxiety which almost inevitably leads to other, much more complex issues and these children have become my central focus over the years. I have first hand experience within my own family of emetaphobia, a crippling phobia which triggers anxiety leading to periods of disordered eating or refusal to eat, fear of food, fear of going anywhere there may be food in case anyone else eating it may be sick and periods of self hatred and hopelessness. This leads to periods of agoraphobia and an inability to spend time with friends and it is extremely hard watching young people that you care about suffering; it leaves you with a terrible sense of helplessness. On bad days, a child suffering from anxiety or stress may not even be able to get out of bed some days, let alone face the challenges of getting to school and then having to face the stresses of the day.
So, I decided I would do everything I could to empower myself to help. Whilst in school, I tapped into the expertise of the SENCO and Head of Base Communications Unit and learnt about how to best deal with the anxieties I was seeing in children every day. I learnt that you can't simply fix anxiety or any other SEMH issues and that our role is to make connections, build relationships, model healthy attitudes and behaviours and do our best to help young people find a way through.
I was seeing SEMH and SEBD issues more and more in education and I feel that the pressure on our teenagers is so vast now that for many (as opposed to some) children, it is simply overwhelming and they cannot cope. This manifests itself in so many different and, sometimes, unpredictable ways which we can never predict and sometimes we may look and think that something may seem a bit silly but these anxieties are not silly, they are crippling and life controlling for the young people who have to suffer them. I have now left mainstream education in order to work with children who are suffering so badly that often, they are not even able to attend school.
In addition to phobias and eating disorders, I have worked with children with crippling exam stress, body dysmorphia, addiction, criminality and victims of bullying, particularly cyber-bullying, and every single experience is individual and unique to the sufferer. I left mainstream education in December 2019 because I decided that I wanted to focus on these children, the ones who were struggling on, often silently, and often not being able to cope. Having also had two children who were unable to negotiate the school system successfully themselves for very different reasons, I really understood how real it is not only for the children but also for the family who often need support and reassurance too. From first hand experience, this is a terribly scary place in itself but even more so for parents who simply don't even know where to start looking for help.
I am committed to supporting children with all walks of special educational needs and I aim to make life (and lessons) a bit more navigable and therefore just a bit easier for them. My skills and experience developing trusting relationships with students with SEN including autism
I fully believe that developing trusting relationships with students is the key to being able to support them. This is true of all people, not only those with SEN and I endeavour to create a relationship with a student initially by engaging with them on a very general and conversational tone and finding out all of the things they enjoy doing and what hobbies they have and then actually sharing some of this information about myself too. Whilst it is imperative to always maintain a professional distance and be a positive role model, it is also important for the child to accept you as a person rather than just a figure of authority or someone who is going to make them do something that they really struggle with doing and ultimately, do not want to do. By being able to start building the foundation of a relationship on this informal level it is possible to develop it to a point where there is a mutual respect. Once young people feel comfortable around you, they start feeling comfortable to start at least "giving it a go", trusting that you won't laugh at them or tell them that they are wrong. There is no wrong if you've really tried, there's just not quite getting the idea yet.
For many young people, including both of my own children who are now 17 and 21, school can be a difficult place to navigate and learning subjects which may not be from choice to start with can cause what can seem to be insurmountable problems. having built good relationships with my students and working on increasing their confidence and self-esteem, they are then better equipped to be able to tackle these subjects with more positivity and an acceptance that they can fail in a secure environment in order to learn how to build on those mistakes and turn them into success, whatever that looks like for them. Improvement can only be made when we make mistakes, often thought of as failure but on that we can build so I try to encourage students to embrace failure as positive as it is a stepping stone closer to the end result. With some students, this can take a long time but it is imperative to build this relationship because it is when a child is confident enough to fail in their learning around us that we are able to take the opportunity to demonstrate to them that they are doing things right too and once they can see this, the more academic side of learning begins to take place and avoidance, almost invariably, decreases.
I have adapted and developed my style over the years, and being a mother certainly changed my perspective in so many ways. I have found that when you use the technique of ignoring all reference to failure, preventing avoidance by distraction allowing the student to return to their work without having to recover from a potentially confrontational situation and always, always finding the positives, success will inevitably come about. My skills and experience supporting students with autism
Two of the schools where I was Head of English had specialist ASD units. These students ranged across the vast ASD spectrum and we taught children at both ends and somewhere in between. Although these students had special provision, the school was inclusive and ASD students were also taught in lessons with other students, up to 32 in a class. I have found it enjoyable building relationships with, and understanding the individual needs of, the students and then supporting them in the classroom and turning frustration to success.
In my role as Head of Department, I often took SEN children, particularly ASD students, into my classes where they were struggling in other English lessons, for example if a class was noisy or unruly or if the teacher was not yet fully trained in working with ASD students and was maybe struggling to enable a student to feel secure within that environment. With careful seating and appropriately focused attention, the child was usually able to settle in and accept my strict classroom rules and boundaries. This firm but consistent approach has proven to work very well not only with ASD students, who often need strict rules and boundaries, but also with all students who simply need and like a consistent, predictable learning environment.
I have taught a large number of ASD students privately over the years as well as in school. I have found that when the students come to me, they are often disillusioned and filled with the belief that they cannot do it, particularly an abstract subject like English which demands an analysis of inference in language which is a struggle for many those students on the spectrum even in their everyday life as they often miss nuance and body language as well as inference. Their confidence is often on the floor and they need to have this built up and an element of self esteem established before you can even start work on academic subjects. Having set small goals for the student, we establish a pattern of success and the desire to then build on this success comes naturally. This is when the student is really ready to absorb new learning. My skills and experience helping students to develop motivation and engage in learning
As I have previously stated, building a respectful and positive relationship is the foundation and once this is established, it becomes about making learning real for the student. If a student isn't engaging in learning it is usually for one of three reasons; firstly that they can't do the work and they don't want to appear "stupid" and so they choose not to do the work or try to distract, secondly that they are simply bored and they may need a break to distract them and then return to work using a slightly different approach, especially useful if you have been able to get to a point where you are talking one to one about the work and asking what they need help with and thirdly because they can't see the point of doing it anyway.
With all of the above scenarios, the answer is to show that student how what they are learning is relevant to them and real. For Maths teachers, they can take angles outside and calculate lengths and areas of what is around them and try to encourage them to think when this skill might be useful for them. As an English teacher, I choose to make it relevant in two ways; one is by using interesting and contemporary sources to develop skills, for example a modern and topical extract for them to analyse rather than a 19th
Century extract. One year it was snowing and despite all the other schools closing, we didn't have a snow day. The year 11s were "unsettled" so I got them to use their letter writing skills and frame a clear and respectful letter to the head arguing the fact that they should also have had a snow day and why. He read it and sent a considered and respectful answer in return. The students felt that they had been heard but also, they had practised letter writing using persuasive techniques.
The other way is by nurturing an approach to education that they may not have previously considered. I ask them to think of education as a passport. With that passport, you have the potential of going anywhere in the world but without it, you stay home. Education is the key to that passport and although there may be lots of bits that you really don't like, you must remember why you're doing it and never give up. By getting them to understand the importance and relevance of what they are learning, it will help them to get one step further to achieve whatever their dream may be and if they don't have a dream, I would encourage them to think towards the future and where they want to be next year, in 5 or possibly 10 years. My skills and experience working with teenagers and young adults
I have spent the last 26 years working with teenagers and young adults not only in school but I have also had and raised two children of my own whom, having both followed unconventional paths in life so far, are now 17 and 21. I have been surrounded by young adults for all of my life. I feel very privileged to have been able to teach, support nurture them and hopefully not only prepare them for their exams and school life but also prepare them for an adult life which is going to hit them hard when they move on within or outside of education and I believe that it is our role as teachers to do this.
Throughout my career as a teacher and Head of English, I have worked with a huge range of students with an unbelievable range of talents and skills but, there are always those who know that they can do it and those who always believe that they don't have a talent. Everyone does. It is our job to inspire that child to find what that is and show it to the world. This is their confidence and belief in themselves and helps to create a vision of the future which they then have a purpose to work towards.
Since leaving the education system in December 2019, I have been working as a private tutor and have worked with all sorts of young people. I have worked with young people with a variety of educational needs. Last summer, I worked with a young man who had been a victim of exploitation and modern slavery and with 16 criminal convictions, he had been forced to relocate. Working with him was challenging and even developing a framework whereby he was able to realise the value of what we were doing was a constant battle but we spent many hours doing very every day things such as searching and shopping for recipes which he then cooked when we got home or we went out walking with the dogs and talking about his feelings and how he was managing them as well as his aspirations and hopes for the future. Then the discussion would turn to what he needs to do in order to make these things happen. After many applications and interviews, he finally succeeded and is now unrecognisable as the young man I met last February. He is thriving on a plumbing course. I have taught students who have been out of school for some time due to behaviour or illness and either need support catching up or with home schooling. I have taught students with psychosis, ASD, ADHD, those between schools waiting for a more appropriate school placement and those who have been permanently excluded from one or more schools.
I have also taught teenagers and young adults who have been out of school for extended periods of time due to behaviour, illness or other SEMH issues and they need support catching up work or with home schooling. Often, it is the same issue where it is essential to lead these students to the belief that they are able to get back to where they were. Over the last year, I have taught students with psychosis, ASD, ADHD, dyslexia, speech and language delays, sensory processing disorder, pathological demand avoidance, SEBD, SEMH, those between schools waiting for a more appropriate school placement and those who have been permanently excluded from one or more schools. It has been a whirlwind but the one thing that they have in common is that once you are able to make that connection, progress happens almost instantly, and it is the reason I love my job. My skills and experience supporting students anxiety and mental health needs
As someone who has suffered from mental health illness in the past, I am fully conscious and empathetic towards the overwhelming impact it can have on life. But we can learn to live with anxiety and our mental health issues which may seem like a defeatist attitude but by learning to accept the illness and work despite it, we can become more resilient and able to cope with the stresses that life will inevitably bring everyone. I have seen many young people crippled with anxiety which range from exam stress and pressure to much more personal anxieties and each of these is as damaging as the rest. I have seen emetaphobia (phobia of vomiting), eating disorders, addiction, anxiety, self-harm, depression and other anxieties and disorders that can stem from the smallest thing and become life controlling and I see it as my duty of care to do everything I can to support and where I don’t have the resources needed to do this, I am committed to finding the person who is. Safeguarding is always at the centre of what we do.
There are many ways of reaching young people with mental health needs and they are all based on that person’s terms. Mental health is so unique to every person suffering it and whilst one person with emetaphobia may be scared of food, another may suffer terrible OCD from handwashing and it is up to me, as the teacher, to find a way of connecting with that young person and going back to what I earlier referred to and that is that by building a relationship of respect, you have the key to helping that young person unlock their needs. It is then imperative to build a positive working environment around their interests and then it is possible to start to build in some general teaching and develop from there. I try to work on the basis that if mental illness of any kind is part of our lives, we have to learn to live with it and control it, in other words build a resilience against it. The result is that the young person is learning life skills which will benefit them every bit as much in the future as it does at that point when they really need it. I am committed to providing empathetic and caring support for students with mental health needs. My skills and experience boosting students’ self-esteem and confidence
Self-esteem and confidence are the foundation of learning all skills, whether they are academic or life skills. Self-esteem and confidence in young people is often low and they have a huge amount of pressure on them at all times. I have worked with young people who will not go out because they feel that they are not fit to be seen in public because they are too ugly and those who have suffered the terrifying backlash of some minor incident which becomes a major event when it is posted on social media. I also find that many young people today often struggle with image and self-esteem because they constantly see a life which isn’t real being played out on social media and they then aspire to achieve that thing which isn’t real and they can never achieve.
During my time teaching in schools, I always seemed to accumulate a number of mentees, particularly from Years 10 and 11 who were regular visitors or those who simply needed some emotional support in dealing with the day to day. Sometimes it is just being quiet and providing a safe place for that person to regroup without judgement.
My approach to working with children who suffer from issues of self-esteem and confidence is based on the same principle of positivity. I have looked on the internet with girls and we have gone through some of the images we see and really dissected them to show the reality behind what they are seeing. Having done this, we can then look at the positives of the young person sitting in front of me and show how easy it would be to present this is different ways online and this offers the young person the opportunity to reflect.
There are, of course, many reasons why students may be suffering from low self-esteem and confidence but engaging with the individual and helping them to work through whatever it is that is causing these negative feelings so that they are out there and then we have something to work with. And most importantly, even when the thing that is worrying them seems almost irrelevant and silly to you, it is potentially life controlling for the sufferer. In the past I have worked with a therapy dog at one of the schools I was at and it is surprising how something simple like taking a dog out in the fresh air and just getting the opportunity to talk and sometimes, just be quiet and reflect in peace can have a really positive effect on young people.
Furthermore, my firm belief is that everyone is equal and also, in the words of Stephen Hawking, “one of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” We need to learn to embrace our differences and make them into positive aspects of our personalities rather than yearning for a perfection that simply doesn’t exist.” These are wise words of which we should all be mindful. My skills and experience teaching essay writing, including structured written English
As an English teacher with 26 years of teaching experience both in schools and private tuition, I am experienced in teaching structured written English and essay writing. I have worked with students from age 8 to 19 (primarily secondary age 11-19) and I have taught English to students who range from those who are unable to write right through to gifted and talented. I have also taught subjects outside my specialism and have been a History teacher, an RE teacher and a Drama teacher over the years and I have also helped 6th form students write their personal statements for UCAS applications. The principles of all writing is the same if we can help a student to see how simple skills can transfer across subjects and life.
English is about grabbing a student's interest and making what they are working on relevant to life. Once they see how what they are learning works in their everyday lives, they become more interested in writing about it. I refer back to my example of a day when it was snowing in school and my Year 11 group were complaining that we had not closed the school for a snow day when other schools in the area had. They were very vocal about it so we changed to day's task and wrote a group letter to the headteacher outlining exactly why we felt it should be a snow day. It was amazing the arguments they came up with when it was relevant to their lives and feelings so we created a letter which hit many of the targets of the GCSE for writing. It was one of their best pieces and the headteacher responded to each individual point, demonstrating to the group that not only had they been able to clearly express a viewpoint but that it was listened to and received a considered and thoughtful response to their grievances. My belief is that the underpinning of getting children motivated to write is to make it real. Then the ideas flow and once they have ideas, all they need is direction.
My skills and experience teaching children with processing difficulties
I have worked with many student over the years who have processing difficulties and I am currently privately tutoring a student with processing difficulties who has been with me for three years. Having supported him through GCSE where he managed to just achieve his required grade 4, I am now working with him on his assignments for his Public Services course at college.
Over the years, I have come to understand that working with students with processing difficulties is about patience and time, working through ideas with a calm and considered response. It is also essential to ensure that ideas are broken down into individual concepts. Whilst we often concentrate on the big picture and what we want to achieve, students with processing difficulties need to work on the individual detail piece by piece to ultimately construct the final piece. Giving young people time to stop and think and reflect is not wasted time but essential for those who take longer to process. It is also imperative to keep going back to the main objective and focusing on how their ideas connect.
In schools and as a private tutor, I have contributed to EHCPs and IEPs giving ideas for techniques which work with particular students who may have processing delays and the important thing is that these are unique to every individual student. Whilst we must be guided by what it on their plan, we must also know our student and think outside the box so that we are able to get them motivated and interested and then we have a foundation on which to support them in working through their ideas and then being able to record them in writing. Baby steps are where we start and we then watch our students flourish as they work through increasingly complex ideas.
My skills and experience teaching children with memory difficulties
Many SEN students have difficulties with recall and it is again important to break every task down, making it manageable and memorable. For example, if we are reading a text of any kind, it would be imperative to break this down into chunks and ask the student to recall and retell what has happened or be able to demonstrate understanding from careful and focussed questioning by me. By not only thinking about what they have read but also thinking about what it means, the text them becomes more meaningful as we read on and, ultimately, more memorable.
Other techniques that I have used in the past is to get students to teach me, or a partner, a concept that they have just learnt which is one of the fastest ways of assessing whether a student has not only remembered what they have read or learnt but also that they fully understand it. My skills and experience teaching study skills and revision techniques
Again, as a teacher with 26 years of experience of teaching all levels and abilities in schools, and also with my tutees, I am practised and experienced in teaching study skills and revision techniques. I often find that students are given revision techniques with which to work and timetables from which to work but they don't really know what they are actually supposed to be doing. Often they will spend time reading through past work repeatedly and for knowledge based subjects particularly, this may be essential but real studying and revision which sticks is practical and active, not passive. All of my students who get revision homework are given structured and practical tasks to do and I try to work with them and model what these revision skills look like and how they will work for them. As with everything else, each student is a unique individual and skills which work for one student may not work for another. My experience in behaviour management
I have strong behaviour management skills from working for so long and in senior positions in schools, especially working in a special measures school as Head of English. Here, the students who have been causing behaviour problems elsewhere were moved in my class and they were often made up of the most colourful students in the year making for interesting lessons.
I have found, however, that the vast majority of students, if they feel they can do something, will do it and most disruptive behaviour is based on an insecurity on some level. If you can overcome the insecurity, you remove the need for the behaviour. For this to work, you need to know your students well and have built a positive relationship so that they can accept change confidently.
I also believe that good behaviour is built on adapting to ensure that you engage with your students to discover what lies beyond a student's behaviour and what their interests are. If you can build on common interests, a child will want to have a conversation about that when they walk in the room and their behaviour changes. They have a desire to engage and once you have the initial spark of engagement, it unlocks the door and you can offer new ideas to an open mind.
Finally, improved behaviour rarely occurs when you are constantly sanctioning a student. It is really important to catch students doing things which are right and helping them to improve their work by praising what they have accomplished, how impressively they managed to achieve it. Positive reinforcement is the most powerful tool that we have. My other teaching experience
I tutored for the 11+, 12+ and 13+ exams and also the ISEB 11+ pre-tests and 13+ including for children with special exam arrangements and am experienced and confident in delivering this tuition too.