Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Every Child Does Matter

At the moment my second youngest sister, Fashionista Sister is coming to the last part of her teacher training. I have always believed that a person should strive to find work they can take pleasure in and be passionate about. I don’t believe this anywhere more than with teachers. Thankfully, Fash is passionate about teaching and has a gift with children.

So far she is doing well alhamdulillah, the kids love her and she is making her mark already with her innovative ideas and small rewards. Many days, she comes back from work straight to mine and tells me all about her day. I can tell that there is so much going on that she wants to share, I can also see that it drains her sometimes. The schools she has trained at are in one of the poorest parts of the country. Some of what she says has really affected me and made me think about what we do to our children.

One of the children she teaches has been diagnosed with ADHD and often has to be taken aside as he is so disruptive. She spent lots of time doing one-on-one work with this child and convincing him to try. He would insist he was too stupid to try any of the lessons – his mum told him so. The class teacher told her that this child’s older brother was diagnosed with the same problem, but was far worse. Fash worked over a few weeks showing him things he had done well, praising his small achievements and convincing to try even if it wasn’t perfect, reminding him this wasn’t a reflection on his cleverness, but of how hard he was trying. I think she made a difference in the term she was there, but once she moves on, what happens next? If you are black and male, the education system can be difficult to navigate as it is (1, 2, 3), but with parents who tell you that you are stupid and a diagnosis of ADHD? I want to believe that there will be other teachers like Fash who will change the course of this child’s life, but I feel like I can see where he will be in 15 years time and it is not a good place.

In her second term she worked with a class which had a small white girl, again with behavioural problems. She will not sit still, she will not listen to the teacher and her language and behaviour is often inappropriate for her age. Her mother is similar to many in the area – uneducated, poor, lacking the skills or will to change her situation or aspire to better for her child. Her behaviour annoys the teachers who have large classes to police and cannot provide the focussed individual attention this child needs. Again I can see her in 15 years time and I don’t like what I see.

Recently I found my own daughter picking up bad language and suggestive ideas (she laughingly told Little Man she would “smack him in the boobies” and she has asked me what sexy is). At the root of this always seems to be the same child in her class. When I raised this tentatively with LL’s teacher, she confirmed that other parents had expressed concerns and that there is little she can do apart from counsel the children never to use bad language and for us to do the same at home. My husband told me about the time he has seen this child’s father pick fights with people when coming to collect his child, swearing loudly as he goes.

Of course these children are the exception rather than the norm thankfully, but every child matters, each one is precious and innocent and deserves as much as our own children. Fash found that so many of the teachers in the schools she trained at were jaded and resorting to shouting, punishing and control tactics (no water or toilet breaks outside of playtime) which is worrying. This year there are three young women in our close circle completing their training to become teachers – each of them with their own style, but with a love of children in common. I hope there are more like them to make a difference.

I am currently reading the brilliant book Toxic Childhood by Sue Palmer which look at all of the issues above, I will report back when I have finished insh’Allah with what I have learned.


  1. I loved this post although a couldn't stop laughing at Princess's comments!

  2. Assalam-alaikam Sis,
    I had to try not to laugh or she'd clock I wasn't annoyed and do it all the time.