The Difficulty In Being An Adopter And Former Head Teacher

When we decided to adopt, I thought that I was a perfect ‘candidate’.  Why? Well…

  • I had over 10 years experience working with children, loved my job and knew how to connect with them.
  • I had been a Primary Headteacher as well as being the SENCo for a very short period of time, so I understood about special needs.
  • We were planning on adopting school aged children, so I would know how to get the best for the children in schools.
  • I had been the lead in safeguarding, been on the courses and had a good understanding of trauma and attachment.

Well, I can say, hand on heart, that NONE of these things have actually been particularly helpful since adopting.  At the time, many many people told me that parenting and educating were two very different things.  I did believe them – well I think I did – but it wasn’t until actually being a parent that I realised that, although I could get 140 children to be quiet by raising an eyebrow, I couldn’t get 2 small children to put their shoes on without a temper tantrum! That was a bit of a wake up call.

However, I comforted myself in the knowledge that, when the children were both in school, I would come into my own.  I felt confident that I would be able to talk to the Head, SENCo and teachers in a way which would demonstrate my understanding of the issues, both theirs and ours, and we would be able to work together to a mutual understanding.  Ummmm, well it turns out that this has just not happened! Why? Well…

  • Having been a teacher, I am so aware of how busy they are.  They have 30 children to deal with, not to mention their parents, and I just don’t want to be ‘that’ parent. You know, the one who teachers dread seeing heading towards the door!
  • I made the mistake in thinking that, when there was a problem with either of the children, I’d be able to remain calm and professional. Turns out that in reality I am a bit of a mama bear.  Mess with my kids, mess with me! Who knew??
  • I hadn’t actually realised that some schools (OK read most schools) aren’t attachment aware.  I would have said previously that as a teacher I was attachment aware.  I wasn’t! Not even close!  The thing is, teachers are overwhelmed by the amount they have to teach, do, know etc, and if you don’t ever teach an adopted or Looked After Child (which I never did) then you wouldn’t have had a reason to become aware. It’s not a good excuse, I know, but it’s very much the truth.

However, the worst part really is that, having the knowledge I do have from being a Primary Head, actually has made the whole situation much more frustrating for me! I find myself becoming angry when the school seems to be unaware of Pupil Premium Plus.  I’m frustrated that they don’t understand why their behaviour management techniques don’t work for adopted children.  I genuinely can’t fathom that the Head isn’t aware that Little Miss has a communication disorder and has put in place a punishment which is beyond reason!  It’s all baffling and frustrating to me.

So, I’m going to be biting the bullet for the next year and become ‘that’ parent.  I have to get over my concern about that in order to be the advocate for my children that they need me to be.  After all, if I don’t do it – who is going to?

Is it just me? There would be so many things I’d do differently if I went back to teaching – what’s the one thing you wish schools would do?


  1. As an ex teacher, I think I am THAT parent and my son is only at nursery! I am happy to be that though as he is my precious little miracle and I am his mama bear and his needs are the most important thing in the world to me. Thankfully, we have a lovely supportive nursery who are more than happy to help so I haven’t had to be anything other than chatty at this stage but if it came to it…
    It has completely changed my perspective on teaching though especially for those children with additional needs and I am shocked that I never encountered parents who were being strong advocates for their parents as I could have done so much more for those children… if only I had known what I know now!

    1. Author

      That’s exactly how I now feel. I look back over my teaching career and think that I wish I had known more and thought so much more holistically than I did. If I ever go back I shall definitely do things differently!

  2. well done and a brave and honest post, it must be difficult to take off your “teacher” hat and put on the “parent” one at times

    1. Author

      Thanks so much! I’ve bitten the bullet and have been in to see the children’s next years teachers – and it went really well! I just need to get over my fear I guess 🙂

  3. Good for you! If you have to be ‘that parent’ to get the best for your children then that’s absolutely the right thing to do. I work in a high school so try not to be ‘that parent’ but I had to this week and my daughter’s head of year was great about it. xx

  4. The one thing I wish our school would do is to improve their communication – both with us and internally between staff.

    I’m sure you’re be a fantastic advocate for your children. And knowing all the jargon is a big head start too! I look forward to reading more of your ‘adventures’…

    1. Author

      That is the one thing I hear time and time again…lack of communication. It was the biggest thing I worked on as a Head (and I didn’t always get it right then either), but since being a parent I can see how very frustrating it is to NOT be kept in the loop!! It’s the one area that, if the school gets it right, makes such a difference so quickly!

  5. I also worked in a School and used to dread ‘that’ parent so I always try to be as considerate as I can!

    1. Author

      Me too – but I’ve realised that sometimes I’m just going to have to be ‘that’ parent – but I do try really hard to go in softly first before I push too hard! I think building a good relationship with the teacher is so very important!

  6. This post resonates a lot as I work in SEN Education and thought I had skills which would be useful but there’s a huge difference in being a teacher and mum, mum is far more emotional. I too have tried hard not to be that parent and I’ve found it helps to be very proactive with the school and focus on the things that they can do. I also choose my battles wisely. I am lucky that my children’s school works really hard with adopted children I went to an adopters support group for education and was appalled by what happens in other schools. I think it’s all about having a conversation with key staff at the school. Don’t think about it as being that mum but just a mum determined to give your children the education they deserve and to make a school a positive experience.

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