Hospitals: Schoolroom coordinator enjoys blend of care and teaching
Why did you decide to become a hospital teacher?
I worked in mainstream education as a primary teacher and then had my children. I wanted to work part time and did this in the Hospital and Home Teaching Service for eight years before going full time. We were later amalgamated with a pupil referral unit and it was here that I was promoted to the hospital schoolroom coordinator.
What does your role entail?
A typical day runs like this:
8.30am: Staff briefing with the family worker and the nurses in schoolroom on children’s ward. They’ll inform us of details such as whether the children had a restful night and their particular medical needs. We’ll also do a profile for each child on the database, which is our register for the day. Sometimes we are requested by staff and parents to get in touch with the pupil’s school. The pupils’ profiles help us to plan our curriculum for the day as many of our pupils are short-term stay.
9.30am: Schoolroom opens and we start our ward rounds. This doesn’t take long as the schoolroom is situated directly off the wards. We talk to the children and their parents to see who’s able to come into the schoolroom for that day and who needs to do work by their bedside. Also we need to ensure that a customised or sensory curriculum is provided for those children with special needs.
Soon after this, parents and children start arriving in schoolroom. We strive to mirror the national curriculum by offering numeracy and llteracy, personal, health and social education (PHSE) and this is complemented by computer activities and on-line learning.
1.00pm: School afternoon starts. The afternoon is for mixed activities, creative writing, painting and modelling. We try to create as relaxed an atmosphere as possible and often play educational board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly and we have selection of games on computer. Sometimes we’ve organised workshops by ‘Museum of London’ and ‘Victoria and Albert’ alongside this we enjoy taking part in competitions and have recently been part of the ‘Shine Week’ and completed posters for the ‘Gypsy Roma and Travellers’ project and art work and creative writing for ‘Who do you think you are’ week.
3.30pm: Schoolroom closes.
On Monday afternoon I attend psycho-social meeting with medical and other paediatric staff to discuss any issues regarding individual children. On Thursdays after school I have a team meeting with my other colleagues at the pupil referral unit at Tunmarsh Centre. Here we discuss current issues and have updates on current developments in education. Also, periodically, we have briefing meetings where teachers get the opportunity to discuss their individual pupils with a psychologist from the Child and Family Consultation Service.
What’s best about your job?
It’s lovely to have your own schoolroom - I really missed that when I was doing home tuition. You also get to have lots of one-to-one time. If a child is struggling with their times tables, say, you can give them individual support and there is much more time available to have informal chats with pupils and parents. This sort of time would not be readily available within the school context where appointments are often needed in order to make contact with the teacher.
Sometimes you can feel a bit isolated. In a mainstream school there is a staffroom and plenty of other colleagues for social contact. Also, you don’t get the continuity with your pupils that you would get in a schoolroom setting.
What are the challenges of your role and how do you overcome them?
You are dealing with children of all ages, from five to 16, and all abilities from the academic to those with a profound multiple learning difficulty. Our planning has to encompass the needs of all those children from sensory curriculum and foundation through to key stage 4. I used to worry about this aspect but experience has shown me I can deal with most situations. If I’m stumped, I phone a colleague.
What’s different about your role?
Bereavement of a child is always traumatic for all of those people who at sometime have impacted on that child’s life. We have parents who have returned to us afterwards requesting a piece of their child’s work or just needing to talk.
Why should others think about becoming a hospital teacher?
We’re a rare breed as there aren’t many positions. I think that it would appeal to anyone who likes to be creative in their teaching and realises the benefits of small groups and one-to-one time with pupils.
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