To help teachers to better approach children from foster families, in 2012 we launched an Educational Project. Since then the conflicts are getting less.
Being the father of a pre-schooler myself, I want school to be a safe and friendly place for my son. I want to be sure he will be treated well there and will be surrounded by professionals who can help him develop his natural talents. I think all parents want this. At SOS Children’s Villages, we are used to dealing with children with various types of challenges. It is not a surprise considering they all went through many hardships. Neglect, abuse and separation from biological parents can have long lasting effects on the behaviour and emotional well-being of these children eventually carrying on into their future lives. We work a lot to help the children in the village as well as in the foster families where we supervise, to overcome traumas from their past. But what about the teachers in the schools that these children attend? Do they really know how to handle children from foster families?
“School is a very important part of the children’s lives. They learn there, play, ask questions, make friends, have fights, become friends again … The children in SOS and foster care want to be treated like anyone else. But at the same time there are differences, and teachers must be aware of them” – says our pedagogue, Igor Vorbjev, who knows, first-hand, the challenges that come with educating students from difficult backgrounds. Even simple assignments in school such as drawing a picture of their family or reading a story about a happy family can cause them distress. “These kids have either lost their biological parents or have bad memories about them, so the word ‘family’ can be a very painful word for them especially during the adaptation period when they haven’t yet fully gotten settled in the SOS- or foster- family,” says Igor.
The teacher’s pat on the boy’s shoulder for a job well done caused a strong reaction.
At some point we noticed that oftentimes teachers have little knowledge on the psychology and behaviour of foster children – which resulted in conflict situations. This is basically why, in 2012, SOS Children’s Villages launched an Educational Project for teachers from local schools. “In simple words, the Educational Project helps teachers understand how to approach children in the classroom, considering all backgrounds. A teacher’s job is hard, really hard. To remember the backgrounds of every child is difficult, but we think there should be a general understanding that there are children in the classroom who are in foster care, or were adopted” – says Igor. This is very important because when teachers don’t understand a child’s background, they may unwittingly set off ‘triggers’ that can cause emotional meltdowns in children. “Once, a teacher came up to me and told about a boy who jumped out of his chair and screamed obscenities during a lesson. The next day we met with the boy to find out what the problem had been. It turned out that the boy had been physically abused by his biological family and it was the teacher’s pat on the boy’s shoulder for a job well done that had caused such a reaction. The conflict was resolved” – says Igor adding that the project helps to avoid such stressful situations and makes the relationship between a child and a teacher more harmonious.
I’m proud to tell you that more than 50 teachers and 20 foster families from the SOS Children’s Village and the local community have taken part in the Educational Project. At the regular meetings, seminars and presentations in the SOS Children’s Village, they learn about difficulties foster children may face in school and how to help them in the best possible way.
“Because of traumatic experiences in the past the children can be angry, depressed and lagging behind academically” – says Igor who is also a coordinator of the Educational Project. “The good thing however is that most of these challenges can be resolved if treated properly. In this respect, the Educational Project serves as a platform where teachers and foster parents can openly discuss any difficulties concerning school matters and find solutions together. Just like parents, teachers not only watch kids growing – they help them to grow. I even dare to say that after parents, teachers are the most influential people in a child’s life. And it is only through working as one team, that foster parents, SOS specialists and teachers can give children in foster care a chance for a better tomorrow. They all deserve that chance.”