The Mystery Superheroes (a.k.a Pastoral Workers)

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Image: CC Pixabay

In a term where the pressure on teachers is great, where the sand of time is running through your fingers and where the children are more tired than the staff, the collegial support gets you through the day. Sometimes though, the staffroom banter, the friendly, empathetic friend or even the glass of wine whilst sat proof-reading reports, just isn’t enough and so the tears of exhaustion and emotion arrive, flood your face, and continue to flow until you can’t cry anymore. Whilst I haven’t been overcome with tears (yet), the last few weeks have been quite stressful, completing PDPs for assessment, preparing for final observations and continuing to ‘act up’ as Class Teacher in a class where every child needs that ‘little bit extra’. Then, this week arrived, probably the most challenging in the six years I have been in education.

Anyone who works in education will have, at least twice in their life, considered and studied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs but how many of us considered that we would be the main provider of the lower levels, providing love and safety, for some, even the basic physiological needs? Maybe even more so as a parent, I struggled (and continue to struggle) to understand why this does not happen in the homestead.

For obvious reasons, I cannot share details of individual cases, but this week, I have discovered that sometimes, as a Teacher, we experience the worst cases of human cruelty, of disregard for the needs of children and of failure of basic, human decency. In these darkest days, there are many people to turn to for support, but for me I have been blessed by an amazing, professional team of ladies who continue to drag teachers, parents, carers and children, especially the children, through these dark days. Enter the Pastoral Team!

Before joining my school, naively, I believed that the social care of children was, either the responsibility of the children’s’ parents or, failing that, the responsibility of the authorities. I was not that naïve that I did not think that Teachers had a key support role, but I had not really considered that our role could be so vital. “I’m an educator, not a Social Worker,” I would utter to colleagues, even mocking pastoral worker friends at university that I wanted to provide education, not the “happy-clappy stuff!” Now I stand corrected and apologise: the Pastoral Team play a pivotal role in enabling us to do our job effectively.

I cannot describe how grateful I feel for having such an amazing team, for the work they do with the children especially: were it not for them, I firmly believe that some children would no longer be with us.  Many would have escaped the radar, be in a life of squalor and crime, and not know any different. Although not the main priority, the team provide an amazing level of support to the teaching staff too, and as a newbie, they provide invaluable advice and the most incredible emotional support too. I know that I’m a bit of a softie; I can bawl like a baby at films, have to tell my ATW (amazing teacher wife) regularly how much I love her and can be melted by a simple act of kindness or humility, but the children in which I (don’t) speak about break my heart daily. A single smile of content from them or a moment of weakness will have the same effect: they can make the hardest of days light or the lightest of days become overshadowed with yet another disclosure of abuse.

So how do these super-humans do it? The Pastoral Team remain calm when challenged by staff over the decision not to give a child a consequence (knowing they can’t divulge the antecedent), or when a parent, whom they have provided some much support to, barges into their office with a tirade of profanities because the Pastoral Team can no longer collect their children from home. A home where mum is still ‘coming down’ from the late-night highs or nursing the injuries she sustained from her latest beau. I questioned one of the team this week how they keep their cool when faced with bureaucracy or the apparent reluctance to act by some outside agencies. Worst of all, when all is said and done, they go home to their families and cannot share their woes but must continue to play mum, wife, lover and normal human being. Notwithstanding baring all of these troubles, I can always guarantee a smile and a giggle from these incredible people.

Therefore, despite the many sleepless nights you suffer and the emotional, mental and occasionally physical pain you endure, on behalf of the entire teaching profession, the parents you support and most of all, from the children whose lives you change, thank you!

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3 thoughts on “The Mystery Superheroes (a.k.a Pastoral Workers)

  1. Hayley Earl

    I think we are all guilty of undervaluing our Pastoral Teams, Intervention TAs or whatever name they go by. It must be an incredible challenge to remain positive some days, knowing that their best efforts may not, at times, be enough.
    Perhaps we should all make more of an effort to tell them how much we appreciate them rather than bemoaning the children and families they support.

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  2. bethben92

    I categorically agree with all of this. Our Learning Mentor is fantastic. She remains calm even when faced with other staff having a go because a child did not receive the “punishment” that they thought should/would happen. She fights daily with those who think “one size fits all” when it comes to behaviour management… because she knows a child who hasn’t had breakfast, a child who got themselves ready for and to school on time, a child who hurts his friends because his Dad left the family home. Her positivity is a constant inspiration to me. We have shared a smile over vicious name calling whilst positively handling a child in crisis and cried with children who have lost a family member but mostly I admire her resilience and bouncbackabilty… hopefully the children learn from how she is. Pastoral staff rock.

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