I feel I’m failing the young people in my care
Katie** is a year 10 head of year in a UK high school.
This is her dream job, something she ploughed many hours of study and practical experience into achieving.
So why does she feel like there’s something ‘not right’ about her professional role? Why does she doubt herself, her pastoral responsibilities for her impressionable students, and why is she feeling overwhelmed by social obsessions around physical identity?
The truth is, Katie isn’t alone. She’s one of many thousands of teachers who step into the world of classroom teaching with a desire to be a supportive educator, advisor and role model.
But at the same time, she’s conflicted. She feels she’s not as ‘competent’ as she would like to be, when it comes to helping her students navigate the tricky world of body image, mental health – and in particular, eating disorders.
“If I’m honest, I feel like I’m failing the young people in my care,” she says.
“I see these impressionable teens staring at ridiculously unattainable body ideals on their social platforms, and I see them agonising over eating ‘clean’, or becoming more controlling about the food they’ll eat in their school day.
“It worries me terribly because I have family experiences of someone with an eating disorder, and I recognise how quickly these things escalate…and yet I don’t always know the right thing to say or do.”
Katie’s experience is born out by teachers and pastoral care leads throughout all ages of education.
While mental health is so much more on the agenda within schools and colleges than it ever was, there is still a lack of comprehensive approach within the education arena, which would enable staff to be clearer about appropriate actions and dialogue in times of suspicion.
Wednesday’s Child’s founder, Debbie Watson, has been frustrated by this ‘black hole’ in wellbeing education for some time.
It’s exactly why we began liaising with schools and colleges in order to better understand how we could deliver for their needs.
“What we learned from our schools research was quite worrying,” Debbie says.
“Teachers and even pastoral care staff were saying they felt so terribly unsupported, and petrified that they might say or do the wrong thing if they were to speak up in relation to a possible case of an eating disorder within the school.
“It was all the evidence we needed at Wednesday’s Child, that something more needed to be done – which is why we we’ve been working tirelessly on the right kind
of materials, support programmes and resources to help every person who works in a learning environment.”
Wednesday’s Child has a series of workshops and support programmes specifically available for schools, as well as a robust protocol, which can be embedded by any school seeking to evidence their commitment to pupil care.
If you’d like to chat more about our services in this area, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Aug 2019