Dear teacher is my adopted child in your class?

Dear teacher is my adopted child in your class?

We had a flying visit back to the UK for Wonder Boy to attend his secondary school induction day. We were lucky enough to meet our Looked After Child Coordinator who helped put Wonder Boy’s worried mind at ease. It’s brilliant that as an adopted child he has his own special teacher to go to when he feels overwhelmed by school. Perhaps you are a teacher. Do you have an adopted kid in your class? Maybe my adopted child will be in your class.

Many adopted children struggle at school

Adopted children are more than twice as likely to achieve poor GCSE results. Fewer than one in four adopted children are awarded at least five grades of C or above including in English and maths.

School can be tough for adopted children, and all too often the behaviour experienced in the class room is put down to ‘bad behaviour’.

I know, it’s hard, you have a child that seems to be ‘out of control’ with non-stop fidgeting, shouting out, rude, answers back, won’t look you in the eye, a face like thunder, breaks things, clumsy, accidentally gets into a fight, can’t admit when they’ve done something wrong, can’t be quiet, line up, sit quietly, concentrate, focus, keep their books tidy, won’t listen. It’s frustrating, I know, this is my life!

Many a time I’ve been brought into class after school to have a quiet chat with the teacher about the latest shenanigans my kid’s got into.

My children are adopted from the UK care system therefore like many adopted children, their early lives have been marred by neglect, trauma and abuse. And the effects can be life-long.

And that behaviour, often construed as ‘bad behaviour’, is just some of the effects of early life neglect, trauma and abuse.

As the new CEO of Adoption UK says: “It may not always be obvious why a child is being disruptive in class but they may not feel safe or they may be very anxious about this person in authority because someone in authority may not always have seemed like a safe person to them in their lives in the past.”

Wonder Boy was only six when he said: “Grown ups, they can do bad things can’t they?” That was his experience.

I know, you are a teacher, not a social worker. But there’s a lot you can do

Start to understand attachment and the effects on kids with disrupted and broken attachments. This will equip you with the skills to support children like my kids.

  • Look beyond the behaviour, think about the emotions the child is feeling
  • Praise, no matter how small, it goes a long way
  • Build that child’s self-esteem – give them a job, a sense of responsibility and achievement
  • Unstructured time can feel threatening, build some structure into lunchtimes and play time, so this child knows what to expect
  • If you are going to be away or a supply teacher is stepping in, tell the child, and their parent
  • Let them play with younger kids, this can be less threatening
  • Set up nurture groups
  • Have quiet and calm play
  • Fidget toys – they work, even squeezing blue tac or play doh – it all helps

And there’s help to help you support my adopted child (and other adopted kids too!)

  • Adoption UK has teamed up with the National Headteachers Association to make every school an attachment-aware school. Their aim is to equip school leaders with the skills, awareness, strategies and knowledge to support adopted children in school
  • PAC-UK has a range of support services for schools
  • PAC-UK runs the Education Advice Line 0207 284 5879 (available Wednesdays and Thursdays term-times)
  • Attachment Aware Schools is an excellent resource looking at improving attachment awareness in schools
  • Read the brilliant teachers’ and parents’ guide Let’s Learn Together leave copies in the staff room
  • The Adoptables is a network of peer support for young people. Run by Coram, the children’s charity, it has produced the Adoptables Schools Toolkit, freely available for all schools
  • Pupil Premium Plus provides adopted children with £1900 pupil per year of extra support

Photo credit: Photo Aterlier courtesy of Flickr

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  1. August 14, 2017 / 1:37 am

    Many teachers will learn from this post because it is really important that they guide, and they take good care of the students they have. I also learned a lot from this post. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

    • Tooting Mama
      August 15, 2017 / 9:26 pm

      Thank you for stopping by!

  2. August 5, 2017 / 6:32 am

    Very informative post, I had no idea about those statistics for adopted children! It’s definitely something teachers need to be more aware of!

    Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time

    • Tooting Mama
      August 10, 2017 / 4:00 am

      Thanks! I completely agree the statistics are startling!

    • Tooting Mama
      August 10, 2017 / 4:00 am

      Thank you so much!!!

  3. August 2, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    I hope your son manages well in Secondary School. It can be hard enough going to school but to be different in any way makes it much harder. #kcacols

    • Tooting Mama
      August 3, 2017 / 6:19 pm

      Thank you! I’m hoping the transition goes smoothly!

  4. August 2, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    This is such a great post. So much valuable information and tips for not only teachers but others too. My daughter is starting secondary school in September too, I hope wonder boy settles in quickly and enjoys it! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time
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    • Tooting Mama
      August 3, 2017 / 6:34 pm

      Thank you! I am keeping my fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!

  5. Carolina Twin Mom / Mary Peterson
    July 30, 2017 / 3:47 am

    This is a great article, full of insight! While I am not a teacher, I would imagine that there is not much proactive discussion with parents initiated by a teacher regarding the adoption of students and unique behavior/traits, etc., perhaps from the worry the teacher would feel of singling out a child. This article gives loads of actionable ideas to help out all adults involved with raising adopted children. Great job!
    – visiting from #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Tooting Mama
      July 30, 2017 / 7:05 pm

      Thank you so much! You are right, the meetings with teachers just seem to be on repeat. But I do hope with some additional reading teachers will feel better equipped to deal with behaviour the experience.

    • Tooting Mama
      July 27, 2017 / 6:35 pm

      Oh brilliant. I really recommend the Let’s Learn Together booklet. It’s so good and so very helpful for both teachers and parents.

    • Tooting Mama
      July 27, 2017 / 6:33 pm

      Thank you! I do hope this post finds its way to teachers and sign posts them for additional support and advice!

  6. July 24, 2017 / 7:51 pm

    This is such valuable advice for teachers and I hope that it reaches the right people. Its great to hear that your son has someone to support him and go to when it’s needed. School is such a big step for children. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Tooting Mama
      July 26, 2017 / 7:22 am

      School can be tough, there’s so much going on, so many things to negotiate, both of my kids had bumps along the way. Really hoping things go more smoothly….but I’m here for the bumps!

    • Tooting Mama
      July 26, 2017 / 7:21 am

      Thank you. YOu are so right. It’s is hard, but if possible it’s worth looking beyond the behaviour and trying to address the source of the anxiety.

  7. July 24, 2017 / 6:41 am

    This is really interesting. Two of my daughter’s best friends are adopted. I know that they struggle in school. But I have also been the teacher on the other side and felt the frustration of a constantly-interrupted lesson. I love your advice to teachers on how to help these kids. #sharingthebloglove
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 24, 2017 / 3:11 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I feel for your daughters best friends, it’s so hard for them. My little ones can be impulsive. As I say there’s no edit button!

  8. July 23, 2017 / 9:10 pm

    It must be really tough as the teachers are nowadays under so much pressure with paperwork, tests etc… I guess more work need to be done in spreading the awareness & with articles like this it helps a lot!!
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 24, 2017 / 3:10 pm

      Thank you so much.

  9. July 22, 2017 / 8:21 pm

    I doubt the new harder tests will help the situation 🙁 schools are being pressed to get results which are harder to obtain and leave more children as failures 🙁 I know of 2 adopted children and the teachers do their best but the education changes make their job almost unbearable
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:40 pm

      I am dreading the test, but my kids have been in the French education system for the last two years and it’s pretty rigorous here. I think the social side can be where we find the most challenges.

  10. July 22, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    This was such an interesting read. I didn’t know those statistics. I hope your boy has a wonderful time at school anc that he’ll be in good hands. It’s sounds like he will be x

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:41 pm

      Thank you! We are all looking forward to school, I do think secondary school will be the making of him, he’s chomping at the bit!

  11. July 22, 2017 / 6:34 pm

    I think teacher training should include ways to deal with bullying, children with special needs and supporting vulnerable children, I don’t think it is enough to just have one specialist teacher in each school. They should all be specialists.
    (Hubby helping out)

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:42 pm

      I do think you are right, the training probably doesn’t cover the additional needs children will present with. It can be tough for teachers and it takes a teacher with an open mind to be able to help these kids.

  12. July 22, 2017 / 6:04 pm

    Wow, this is a fascinating article. I’ve no doubt all teachers would love to be able to spend more time with adopted children to help them adjust and grow but I think the pressures they’re under restrict that, which is truly very sad.

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:43 pm

      I know with all the testing, targets, paper work it’s amazing any child gets a look in!

  13. July 22, 2017 / 5:22 pm

    Such an I insightful post, it’s really educational and has shed a new light on this topic to me, I had two adopted children in my primary school class and i never really thought about how their early years must have effected them, mind you I was only young so I didn’t know about all this stuff but it’s something I’ll teach my child to be mindful of.

    Jordanne ||

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:44 pm

      Thank you so much. It really is the early years of any child’s life that has such a big impact. Attachment is a fascinating topic.

  14. July 22, 2017 / 4:55 pm

    I’d hope the schools and teachers have training to recognise when a child might not necessarily be ‘misbehaving’ and it can be something deeper than this which they need to provide support for

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:46 pm

      I really understand that teachers are under so much pressure, so it does take insight and understanding to look beyond the behaviour and it needs a different way of handling. The usual consequences and tools like sticker charts just don’t work!

  15. July 22, 2017 / 11:50 am

    A teacher can be such a positive influence in any child’s life, but I can imagine it being far more make or break for an adopted child’s school life. I know nearly all teachers really want to do their best for the children in their school, so information like this is so important. I doubt it’s something that’s covered as part of teacher training, but school is such a huge part of any child’s life, it’s so important for it to be a safe and positive space. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:47 pm

      I just want to say teachers are amazing. And the teachers I have worked with, for my kids have been brilliant, open, willing to listen. I hope this post reaches teachers so they know there is help and support out there.

  16. July 21, 2017 / 9:52 pm

    Those stats do make me sad. It’s also made me reflect on a boy who I taught (many years ago now) and actually would really tick so many of the boxes. We did try really hard as a school but ultimately it didn’t really end up succeeding. Such a shame that he fits these statistics!
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      Reading your comment it’s just breaking my heart for this little boy. I really hope he is ok.

  17. July 21, 2017 / 5:35 pm

    There are so many professions where multi faceted skills are required but not provided by traditional training, This is an eloquently and well evidenced example of this very poignant issue. I really hope teachers will read it and do lots of thinking and planning as to how they can help these young individuals who may not have been so lucky as to have a good start as their peers. Kate

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:50 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It’s such a tough job being a teacher, and you are right as a profession teachers need many more skills that just to teach. In some cases, they are akin to social workers. I do hope this post reaches out to the teaching community and signposts them to the valuable support that is available.

  18. July 21, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    Every teacher needs to read this….I wonder how much actually goes into providing teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to do justice to adopted children as they would to all others? Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub and enjoy/survive the holidays! x
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:52 pm

      I do hope teachers do get to read this post. I always felt as a mother to an adopted child I was educating them on the basics of attachment! I was lucky to have teachers who were willing to listen, learn and adapt to support my kids. But not all parents are so lucky.

  19. July 21, 2017 / 5:01 pm

    I found this so interesting to read, and hope it helps teachers out there to be more aware of the needs of adopted children. It’s also a great reminder to all of us not to judge children we see out and about who might be being ‘naughty’, as we really don’t know anything about them or their situation. x #TheListLinky

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:53 pm

      I have a saying which I really think rings true for many kids, that behaviour is their language.

    • Tooting Mama
      July 22, 2017 / 9:54 pm

      That is so lovely, a toddler is a great age to adopt. I hope her child thrives in school!

  20. July 21, 2017 / 3:17 am

    It makes me feel really sad to see those stats. What you’ve written here makes perfect sense. Any child that has been through traumatic times, often in the care of or at the hands of a person in authority, is potentially going to find it more challenging in a school environment. I’m just relieved to see that there is support out there for schools and teachers to make them better equipped to support adopted children. Another brilliantly powerful read. Thanks for linking to #DreamTeam x
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 21, 2017 / 9:07 am

      School can be a really challenging environment for adopted children. My little one really did struggle, just being able to sit still, not fidget, control impulsive behaviour. Often consequences here dished out, which wasn’t really the right approach. At least the school was willing to listen, but every year was a real challenge. I hope this post does reach out to teachers and signposts them towards help and support!

  21. Kate
    July 20, 2017 / 10:39 pm

    I think the training of teachers misses out on so much vital stuff like the points raised in this post. I am adopted and went to Cambridge University and had not idea that adopted children can struggle academically in comparison with their peers.

    • Tooting Mama
      July 21, 2017 / 9:05 am

      Thank you. It’s true I think teacher training really misses a trick here. It’d be amazing if it could deal with attachment issues, it’d help teachers support children who are adopted or those kids who are living chaotic lives (of which there are many!)

  22. July 20, 2017 / 10:23 am

    I didn’t know that some schools had a looked after children coordinator, but what a great idea. Our friends foster and they’ve said that it makes such a difference when people “get it” in relation to the children they’re looking after.
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 20, 2017 / 8:42 pm

      Yes, when a school gets it – it makes a massive difference. It’s just a shame some schools are way too rigid. I’ve had to fight many battles to get solutions that would support my child.

  23. July 20, 2017 / 10:08 am

    I am totally with you on this one, I work with children who are looked after too. I wish there were more people like yourself who would adopt and more importantly understand the long lasting effects of a traumatic start to life. You’re amazing, keep doing what you do #brillblogposts x
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    • Tooting Mama
      July 20, 2017 / 8:40 pm

      Thank you! I think there is still the perception that adoption is the magic pixie dust, it sure isn’t some kids, the effects last for years – all we can do is be there for our kids and be their champions and advocates.

    • Tooting Mama
      July 20, 2017 / 8:39 pm

      That’s so great to hear, but so many adopted kids really do struggle in school.

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