The brain is an amazing piece of kit and if we start to understand it, even a little bit, we can take back some of the control that stress can exert over it. This is one of my absolute favourite things to do as a teacher. The effect that it has on pupil, parents/ carers and teacher is immense. It changes my own mind state as well as the pupils and those close to them. It builds relationships between pupil, home and school. The timing of completing this task is important as you can use it to make yourself feel good — the end of school on a Friday or Sunday evening are my two times of choice.
I tend to use this form of communication most often with that large group of young people in the middle who graft every single day and who may, on occasion, feel overlooked. I try to work through as many of them as have earned the recognition over the course of the year. I have used this tool as a tutor because I have an overview of the academic diet and performance of the pupils entire academic and extra-curricular performance and as a subject teacher as well. It has worked from Y4 to Y13, in mainstream and in SEN. If you want it to have even more effect, copy in a member of SLT and the pupil’s tutor. The simple act of them acknowledging that they have seen it when they meet the pupil about school magnifies its positive effect.
It’s really simple. All you have to do is write a letter. It’s a slightly novel situation though, you are writing to the pupil themself. They won’t be expecting this. They will, however, be delighted. I tend to include two copies so they can give one to their parents or carers. Tell them the good you see in them. Tell them the positive characteristics that they have, about the piece of work they have done well with or any of the many other positives that you notice about them. As you write, notice how your own physiology changes — you might feel yourself smile or breathe out deeply both of which help to relieve stress and get you into a positive mindset. Re-read the letter and allow yoursef to feel good about writing it. You see, as teachers we are hugely privileged as we see young people in social situations that their parents do not. We see another side of that young person and choosing to share it is an act of real kindness. The letter below is an example of one sent to a boy last week. It is very current. I wanted to send my most recent one because I want you to know that this isn’t just something I am writing about. It is a powerful tool that I use every single week.
It’s a bit unusual for a teacher to write to a pupil, normally we write to your parents, but I have some important things to tell you. I have included two copies of the letter as I bet Mum and Dad will want to have a copy to keep and so will you.
You an amazing boy, you really are. Your ability to be kind to everyone is incredible. You genuinely treat everyone the same way that you would want to be treated. What amazes me is that even if someone has been unkind to you, you don’t bear a grudge, you give them another chance and right away try to include them in what you are doing. I saw this when you were playing with lego with another boy last week.
So far this year you have done every piece of work I have asked you to. Not only that but you tried some of the new things, like learning a famous poem off by heart. As you have worked so hard I have been able to reward you with small periods of time on scratch which I know you both enjoy and appreciate. I appreciate how hard you have tried to come off the laptop without a fuss when your time is up. It makes it so much more pleasant for both of us.
I think it is really cool that you read so much. I love that you enjoy reading so much as it is something that will help you to learn more. Even better though, you know when you are feeling a bit grumpy or a bit upset to take yourself off to the comfy corner and find something to read to calm yourself back down into a better frame of mind for learning. That is a really grown up thing to do.
Basically, Connor, I am trying to say that I am proud of you. I am very proud of you and it is important to me that you know that.
Have a lovely evening and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.
Miss A. Damned Good Teacher