Common Concerns: The World Students
(and, indeed staff) bring into school all manner of concerns and influences and
issues that are current in society. These will include stresses in family
relationships (directly in that there are stresses between family members;
indirectly that the family unit is under threat e.g. through a parent's
employment situation). Post September 11th, tensions might appear between white
Christian groups and those who are, or are assumed to be, Muslim. Or the latest
"soap" social issue - alcoholism, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy - might be in
many people's minds and conversations.
Beyond These Walls
Staff might notice changes in a particular student's behaviour and/or
performance, might be aware of a clash with another student or teacher, but
unaware of the severe stresses that student is encountering at home. And of
course, it's not the done thing to ask too much, or from the student's point of
view to say too much. In these situations, usually someone knows at least
some of the story, a peer or a close friend, and they too have the burden of
knowing , wondering whether to share with anyone else, and feeling unable to be
of much help, other than to listen.
When we ask students what worries them outside of school, we get some
interesting answers. Sometimes it depends on how you ask, since some worries are
hard to raise in public. Some concerns are both in and out of school, such as
worries about your size or development, at a time and in a culture where there
is a great deal of comparison, between people and against some unachievable
Some common responses on worries outside school are:
- Money - not having enough of it, getting into debt, for some,
- The Future - your own and others' expectations.
- The World Situation e.g. war and unrest, especially where this
seems imminent; the state of the planet.
- Friendship Problems, and more specifically, boyfriend/girlfriend
problems, including sex and pregnancy worries.
- Appearance - for a few a serious issue affecting their health and
- Family Stresses such as coming to terms with parental
divorce, remarriage, and coping in a "step-family". Also having a parent
with a secret or socially disapproved of difficulty such as mental health
problems, alcohol or drug dependence, or imprisonment. There are worries, too,
about traumatic events, seen in the news, affecting one's own family. Some
children have faced loss through the death of a parent or sibling, and some
are effectively carers from a very young age, whether through parental
disability or family dysfunction.
- Children who are Socially Excluded tend to have a list of even more
basic problems - if you can ever get to talk to them - such as homelessness,
getting money and food, drugs, HIV, being arrested, having no-one reliable to
confide in, and as a consequence, at times feeling acutely suicidal. The University of York study defined social exclusion as ‘a short-hand term for what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, discrimination, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown.’