When I teach my benchmark is to reflect at the end of the lesson by asking myself  “would I be happy knowing that my children had just been taught by me?”

When I speak about the students I’m responsible for with other professionals I ask myself “would I be happy knowing that my child was being spoken about in that manner?”

When I see a struggling student I ask myself “would I be happy with the advice, assistance and support which was offered if that was my child having difficulties?”

Those are generally my benchmarks as a teacher. They are my quality indicators. It was the same when I worked in the NHS, under a leadership team who encouraged every staff member to consider in all that they did “would I be happy knowing my family member was being treated like this?” “would I be happy knowing that my personal and sensitive information was being handled like this?”

In my previous life working in strategics in the NHS I took part in Social Role Valorization training. If you’ve not heard of it look it up but basically it’s a social theory that some groups in our society are devalued by other people, often vulnerable groups or groups with no voice. I won’t go so far as to say demonised, but yes in some cases it could be that bad.

What the training does is try to address this ‘them and us’ attitude and reduce the perceived gap between the two. The training I attended focused on demonstrating that the ‘them’ are often not so far removed from the ‘us’ after all and the ‘them’ could quite easilyImage be someone the ‘us’ know and care about. Indeed it’s possible to transfer status and slip from being ‘us’ to being ‘them’.

The training brought home how important it is when providing care or support to consider how you would feel if you were ‘them’. Put yourself in their shoes. Treat ‘them’ the way you usually do then ask how you would feel if that had been you on the receiving end of that support or care or treatment, how would you have felt? What would you have done if you’d witnessed that care, support or treatment being administered to one of your children, your parent, your husband or wife, brother or sister?  It was intended to make us think before we acted in all aspects of care provision from the grass roots to handling patient files to planning patient services and building environments.

I have always thought like this, as I say I set internal benchmarks but training like that described does reinforce the importance of breaking down the ‘them and us’ barriers and bridging the gap. I was also fortunate enough to undertake some Dementia Care Mapping training from the experts at Bradford Uni. This was similar but was observational initially and the reflection followed the feedback.

It encouraged a practitioner to sit back and observe short snatches of time and intensively monitor interactions between a person suffering with dementia and their care givers, environment, visitors, other patients and that interaction was then mapped on a matrix to assess the quality of the person centric care that individual was experiencing and the quality of life that person was enjoying. Thereby it gave a voice to the voiceless. It worked on a series of perceived detractors from quality of life and contributors to quality of life.

I managed a project to train a regional team of mappers and coordinate their activity working closely with a Clinical Psychologist lead. It was an interesting project, still in its infancy but already recognised as a ground breaking scheme when I left my job to go into Imageteaching. I believe it added to my natural tendency to benchmark within myself and to critically view the treatment of care receivers from care givers in terms of impact on quality of life and quality of experience. I think this is something else I have brought with me from the care provision field into teaching. I watch very closely how teachers interact with students and consider being the student and identify the individual tiny moments of interaction and their effects and I listen to how students are talked about, the terms used to describe them and whether or not they are positive or negative (linking back to the mapping and SRV and the taking away or adding something to the perception of the person). It all intrigues me and I learn so much from it.

The whole idea of Dementia Care Mapping and Social Role Valorization was to create reflective practitioners and to assist them in developing their skills and growing within their profession, understanding where they may improve and identifying their existing strengths. Most importantly, doing all of this for themselves on the precept that it is within us to know what is good and right, fair and just, kind and supportive, decent and honest. Furthermore that we would all want ourselves and our families to be treated in this way and so by projecting our loved ones and ourselves into the position of the students we teach we can ensure that we are doing no harm and that we are providing the best possible service we can to each and every individual.

Thinking of professionalism I believe that although there are targets and goals set for teachers, it’s also important for a teacher to demonstrate their own professionalism by being aware of the impact they have on lives, by being aware of their potential to inadvertently do harm and to be able to set their own benchmarks/goals by which they can measure the appropriateness of their approach to their teaching and support of their students both in the classroom and outside of it.

This essay is taking over my brain.


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