The Tiny Teacher Making a Big Difference

Nine month old Polly and her mother, Rachel, have been teaching children valuable lessons
Nine month old Polly and her mother, Rachel, have been teaching children valuable lessons

Baby Polly might only be nine months old but she has already been teaching children at Llanedeyrn Primary School in Cardiff some of the most valuable lessons in life during the last year. Polly and her mother, Rachel Taylor-Beales, are among the parents and toddlers in Wales who have been taking part in the one million pounds Roots of Empathy project funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. Run by Action for Children, Roots of Empathy is an innovative programme that fosters the development of empathy and pro-social skills in children by bringing a baby, known as a ‘Tiny Teacher’, and parent into the classroom over the course of the school year.

Rachel from Roath, Cardiff, looks back on the first year of the project, which is running in Wales for the first time . . . 

I was invited to take part by a friend. She knew I was pregnant and got in touch just before Polly was born. I thought it sounded like a great idea and we went into the school at the start of the new term. It was the ethos of the programme that made me want to get involved more than anything.

It’s been a great opportunity to be part of the Roots of Empathy programme and I’ve really enjoyed watching the dynamics grow and develop through the class’ interaction and engagement with my daughter and answering some of the questions asked about being her mum.

It’s not only good in terms of the emotional literacy that’s explored throughout the course but it also teaches the fundamentals of how to look after a baby, which is the most important thing we can do in our lives.

It was a really nice and welcoming environment and the children were very excited to meet Polly. Some of the children were very restless at the beginning but as time went on, they were all engaged.

Rachel and Polly with their class at Llanedeyrn Primary School
Rachel and Polly with the class from Llanedeyrn Primary School in Cardiff

During the course of the year, the children have become more focused and they genuinely welcome Polly every time she comes in. They’ve asked some very poignant questions about her development and what it’s like for me to be a Mum. The children’s ability to listen has really developed over the course from my perspective and they have been a lively and fun class to be a part of.

It has also been fantastic to see Polly grow in confidence within the environment, and see how much she enjoys the sessions. It’s a privilege to be able to share the wonder of each baby milestone as they happen with a whole class and their teachers and to know that even at such an early age your child is able to impact the lives of others in a positive way.

For me personally, the project has been great to be involved in. I’ve seen the difference that a baby can make to people’s lives from day one. All the kids are excited about the different milestones and the journey they’ve gone on with her.

Projects such as this one should be an integral part of every child’s education. If there are children whose family life isn’t perhaps what it should be, then projects like this can help raise awareness both for the child and the teachers at the school involved. So I think it works on many different levels.

I would thoroughly recommend any parent to participate in Roots of Empathy as it is a wonderful interactive way to become a part of integral education processes for the class, the baby and, from my own experience, the individual parent involved as well.

For further information about the project, visit the Action for Children website by clicking here

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