Paving the way to a therapeutic, emotional curriculum
The Therapeutic Teacher is a podcast series recently started by Shahana Knight, during these days of coronavirus and lockdown. Shahana is the founder of TPC Therapy, and the creator of the Therapeutic Schools Award and the Therapeutic Teaching Courses. Each episode focuses a specific topic such as mindset, triggers or the learning environment and how to become a more therapeutic teacher. Shahana includes first-hand examples that put each element into context. I myself work with children with socioemotional issues and use a therapeutic approach. I was, therefore, interested to find that Shahana transfers this to her target audience of mainstream teachers.
Shahana bravely and openly discusses her own trauma, stemming from her childhood, and how this has shaped and influenced her life and, ultimately, her career. This enables listeners to establish that Shahana not only has an academic understanding of childhood traumas but also a personal one. These shared experiences enable the listener to connect with Shahana as a person and not just another professional, especially those like myself who have also experienced childhood trauma. The episodes further delve into the question of how someone with this level of childhood trauma can overcome these experiences and go on to become incredibly successful; something Shahana addresses throughout this series.
Early episodes introduce therapeutic teaching and its ethos in depth. Shahana states that schooling should not be based on achievement alone, but also on personal and emotional skills, and achievements, which will resonate with the children who missed out on crucial exams this year. These three elements make up the basis of therapeutic teaching, as the approach is to look at the whole child and not individual areas such as academic ability.
Later episodes cover a whole host of topics such as technology, environment, and the brain. Shahana explains the ‘reptilian’ brain, ‘survival’ brain and ‘rational’ brain, in a way that anyone without a psychology background would clearly understand. Children utilising their ‘survival’ brain are unable to think logically and are in a heightened state; until they are in their ‘rational’ brain, they cannot learn effectively. The stages of (a) fight, (b) flight, (c) freeze is a major topic discussed and clearly broken down with real-world situations to explain how to work with a child at each stage. Triggers is also another area that is covered. I found this episode very useful as I discovered that triggers may not be typical things; we normally consider a trigger to be a sound or smell, but they could also be anything that creates a feeling that can revert a child’s psyche back to a traumatic place.
Every episode explains key theories including attachment and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), in a way that a teacher can apply to their daily practice, therefore benefiting not only the children they work with but also themselves. This podcast will be an asset to anyone that works with children, but also young people who may have had traumatic experiences. As an aspiring Educational Psychologist, I personally will be investing in Shahana’s TPC course to improve my therapeutic practice and gain more knowledge in this incredibly important area.
The Therapeutic Teacher podcast with Shahana Knight can be found on Spotify, with weekly episodes released on Thursdays.
Reviewed by Nicolle Binks BSc (Hons), SEMH Learning Support Assistant; T: @nicollejb.
Dr Sarah Taylor-Whiteway is an experienced Educational Psychologist who presents a regular podcast exploring new research, promoting the emotional well-being of children and young people in schools. There have been a number of guests with a range of backgrounds and specialisms who have engaged in discussions with Dr Taylor-Whiteway sharing their research and how it can be used and applied in schools.
There is much evidence of schools across the country developing practice, which demonstrates how, as an industry, we are working to reduce the negative stigmas that are often associated with mental health difficulties. Teachers and school staff are often described as being on the ‘front line’ and never before have we seen so many pupils needing our support. Whilst as educators, many embrace the idea and work towards the inclusion of teaching pupils about mental health and emotional wellbeing (with many successfully implementing this), barriers can exist which may have an effect on the ability to gain the skills and knowledge needed to plan, review and embed the desired strategies to support this topic. In my opinion, this podcast helps to bridge this gap.
I have listened to a number of episodes and have found them to be informative, reflective and most importantly honest. Dr Sarah Taylor-Whiteway engages in discussions exploring in detail, and also summarising, how school staff can support pupils, make simple changes and develop their own practice. Through the careful and detailed discussions that she leads, she is able to deep dive into the thoughts and processes that professionals have taken, including where professionals, such as in the last episode I listened to, The Experiences of Parents and Carers of Children with Disabilities, share their own personal experiences. Dr Taylor-Whiteway’s style appears to challenge the thoughts of those she interviews at times, which gives over a genuine angle, making this relatable for listeners. I have found some interviews to reflect on both my role as an educator as well as a parent.
It comes as no surprise that within education the climate is evolving, and each episode of this podcast has a specific focus, which allows it to be meaningful at any time. The relevance of each episode is naturally derived from the discussion that take place and involves practitioners reflecting on their experiences – not just the positives - but also the challenges and barriers that they have faced. For me, I have made some subtle changes successfully based on my listening, such as using mindfulness breaks for pupils before key exams, and even used my learning from a mindfulness podcast to initiate a case study.
The beauty of the detail and the selection of topics have resulted in Dr Taylor-Whiteway developing a podcast that is accessible and meaningful at differing points in the school year, generating relevance for the needs of school staff. In addition, it is also delivered in a manner that would be accessible to parents too. Listeners can leave with a set of strategies and ideas, making them feel empowered and with a new level of confidence to take back to their setting. In my opinion, this podcast is an excellent resource for those who wish to develop their knowledge and understanding of supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing in schools with advice and suggestions that are flexible to embed into a number of settings.
Reviewed by Lisa O’Reilly, PGCE QTS, NASENCo, NPQSL (DSL-MH), Head of SEND at a Primary School; T: @L_Jeanie21.
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