BERLIN. Prank, bad grades and learning frustration: Children and young people who grow up in residential institutions often have a much harder time in school than their peers. Because the German education system is often not adapted to their special needs. Kathrin Roth (the name has been changed to protect privacy), who works with learning support in SOS Children’s Villages, knows this. With small improvements and a lot of understanding, a lot could be achieved for the children in everyday school life.
Every 13 minutes, a child in Germany must be taken from their family for their own protection. The children have often experienced bad things and will not be able to return to their families in the long run. The so-called outdoor housing gives them the chance for a fresh start, but they still do not have the same conditions as their peers. It is also clear when it comes to education.
Katrin Roth can only confirm that. The politics and geography teacher works in a school replacement project for young people who cannot go to school and assumes the learning support for children from SOS Children’s Village families to give them the best possible support in their everyday school life. She knows from experience: There are many children from residential institutions who have difficulty in school of all kinds. It starts with the fact that very few children received support or even encouragement from their families in school before they were placed outside the home, which is crucial in the German education system.
But above all, people underestimate and forget what a big “package” these kids have to carry. “So far, the school has not been in focus in these children’s lives because they have experienced things that the school simply takes back to. They are not placed outside the home for nothing, ”warns Roth and reminds them that these children have experienced neglect or violence. Moving to an inpatient setting is a major breakthrough in many people’s biography. Education will initially lose even more significance. But in this moment, of all times, it is suddenly important that they are always present in school, doing their homework, getting up on time and coming to school and concentrating. “There’s so much they have to do at once,” Roth sums up the problem.
Schools would have to respond much more flexibly to this situation than is the case at most schools. “You have to give the children time, they have to have more time for conversations with therapists and the like. And there should also be more time, space and staff available for the great need to catch up with the backlog that many have, ”says Roth and lists proposals for solutions. She and her colleagues in the inpatient facilities know full well that this is hardly possible in many schools because teachers are working on the attack due to teacher shortages and the stress caused by the pandemic. They therefore also urge politicians to finally actively address the problem of “teacher shortages”.
However, waiting for it can not be a solution either. And sometimes it does not take much to support the children better, says Roth and gives an example: one of her sponsor children has to characterize the main character in a story. “She could not – because the text was too difficult for her as a child with German as a second language,” says Roth. On the other hand, if the story had been written in simple language, the girl would have been able to solve the task without problems – it would have been a sense of accomplishment for everyone.
What teachers who teach children from inpatient care should also consider: These children need more than just imparting knowledge. “The aspect of building relationships plays a very important role for them – I completely underestimated it myself, because I did not know it from my own school career, nor did I learn it during my studies,” says Roth. She now knows that many of her students are only willing to learn with her once they have found common ground and built a relationship with each other. But then many things become much easier.
It is also useful to find out together why something is not working, and then together with the child develop a plan for how to move forward so that both students and teachers are successful. “Most children then make an offer because they do not want a rejection at all.” But they need to be made aware that their needs play a role, that it is about them. “That’s why I always explain why we do what tasks, what the goal is behind them,” she says.
“Then you as a teacher can classify behavior better and find the appropriate distance”
It is no less important that the teachers establish and maintain contact with the educators at the residential institution. “For example, if there are topics that the child cannot or will not talk about because of their experiences, then teachers need to know that,” says Roth. Teachers should also be informed in a conversation if there are certain behavioral problems. “Then, as a teacher, you can better classify behavior and find the appropriate distance because you know that this behavior has nothing to do with you.” And last but not least, the facility and the school must communicate with each other, e.g. during pending visits to the child’s parents. “Because it moves the kids naturally, and the school then moves into the background again,” Roth explains. If the teachers know it, they can on the one hand adapt to it and on the other hand pick up the child where it is.
On the other hand, the teacher does not necessarily have to know the whole life story. “A lot of kids talk about themselves once they’ve gained trust, and this opportunity should not be taken away from them,” Roth says. When the time comes, the important thing is: Take your time and listen!
Another tip from the teacher: the child should definitely be present during discussions with the educators. “Being involved creates trust,” Roth says. She would also like more teaching by teachers on how to deal with children and young people from residential institutions – to convey to them why it is so important to build relationships with the children and not just let them prepare the material and have contact with Find. educators at the facility.
Some of the institutions also offer that the teachers come to visit with the whole class, which not least aims to break down the prejudices of classmates towards the institutions. Such offers should also be used – because for the children it is often an invaluable help. But such a visit can also be a good step towards networking and good communication between school and institution, which in turn benefits the children. Because without closer cooperation between schools and inpatient facilities, the educational opportunities for the children and young people who live there will remain poor. Beate Berischen, Bureau of Educational Journalism
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