Supporting Our Pupils With The Ongoing Conflict

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Lynn How

Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: Lynn...
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How should teachers approach the Ukrainian conflict in classrooms?

It is likely that teachers have addressed the initial shock of the conflict in Ukraine in classrooms and have needed to have some challenging conversations …

Approaching conflict with sensitivity …

With the ongoing fighting, the plight of those who have been affected by war is not far from any of our minds. The conflict has been problematic for teachers to know what to say; what is too much and what is not enough. It is a huge challenge to cater to everyone’s wishes in this situation; kudos goes to all of our schools that deal with these issues with sensitivity.

Some pupils will have had a lot of exposure to the adult version of the news, whilst others will have been kept away from any information about the conflict. Some families may be open to discussing war and some may have not mentioned the situation to their children at all.

Pupils will naturally have questions and as teachers, we do our best to answer difficult questions in a sensitive, age-appropriate way. There are many pupils who are frightened by what has happened and may not have voiced their concerns. Others may have family members and friends caught up in the conflict …

5 ideas for teachers:

I have put together 5 ideas to provide reflection for teachers:

  1. A worry box: Useful in so many contexts. There’s no need to read these individual worries in front of the class, instead, the teacher or a teaching assistant can discuss concerns with individuals.
  2. A regular reflection: This could be a minute or two of silence watching a candle, listening to a piece of music or looking at one of the many pieces of graffiti art which have sprung up in recent weeks …
  3. Artwork discussion: Using one of the images that have appeared, lead a class discussion about the artist’s intentions and what the image means to individuals.
  4. Class or school fundraising: There are so many organisations raising funds at the moment. Get on board with your pupils or find out what they have been doing at home.
  5. Craft or cakes to sell: Perhaps your pupils would like to have a sale of some sort to support the cause? Items such as cupcakes or keyrings could be yellow and blue to match the flag or link to Ukrainian traditions. Easter is coming and egg decorating is a huge Ukrainian tradition.

As adults, we know that doing something positive in a difficult situation helps towards alleviating negative feelings. This is helping them to process these difficult times as they are having an active part in supporting others.

For further information about talking to children about war, please refer to this advice from the charity Save The Children. Let’s hope that the conflict will end soon …

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