Thursday Period 1- Overlooking the Ordinary. No they are Special.

I was at the gym last Wednesday, I should go more often, my wife thinks I should go a lot more often. My excuse for poor attendance is that I keep on bumping into pupils, ex pupils and parents, it’s all a bit like being at work! But that night I spotted a student I no longer teach who is now in the sixth form. I will be careful in case he read blogs, but I thought, gosh how is this student getting on. I know they aren’t in any trouble, no bad behaviour, no major issues of attitude. So back at school next day, conscience pricked, I did a quick check on sims and 4matrix: showed me “doing well”. Then to be more effective , I asked my colleagues. “Doing really well, doing really really well” – one teacher used my favourite phrase “he has blossomed and is making really fantastic progress, likely to become an excellent….Historian (subjects changed)

This reminded me of a mission I used to have but still too often overlook. The silent majority. doubt it’s just our school but most pupils most of the time are fine, and a Head of Year picks up on issues. Ours are very good : attendance, punctuality, behaviour, slipping effort, matters of special learning need, vulnerable pupils, emotional issues often from home bereavement, divorce, trouble. Heck you are a teacher you know all this. In a class or year group we know all these issues. We know the loud, the outstandingly good ( brilliant written work, great answers, reliable with tip top homework). but my blog is for the ‘ordinary’ the ‘no issues’ (at the moment) pupils. The ‘occasionally overlooked’.

We give prizes awards, praise etc to our best pupils, we watch out and act on our weaker brethren with issues and we call in help ( heads of year….SLT counselling, coaching, mentoring, one2one etc) but what about that silent majority. They come to school, sit and absorb, join in when pushed, do most homework. We talk to their parents at parents’ evening and find ourselves a little surprised when we review their marks. Hey “he’s doing well”

So my plea – don’t overlook the ordinary. Hang it this might be deep in me, wasn’t that me at school, just did my best, quietly got on, never in trouble, but never a glowing star. I enjoyed school, no one coached me etc Pupils who are like that, they deserve their fair share of our time, the interest in their progress, achievement, aspiration and ambition. Data tools are great for analysis, they show up all sorts : those pupils unlikely to get 5 grades and English but not Maths , etc etc But we need to see beyond that data, always for the individual person, I am so glad 4 matrix has a little dot or a x for a pupil but it has their name, theor photo and hence can have a “story” too.

One of my daughters friends many years ago, aged about 13, told me it was their school prize night.

“I’m invited but might not go” she said.

“Why ever not?” I asked.

“Well we know who will get the prizes, the best in the class for achievement (fair, John, very fair but always the same people) and then those naughty pupils who have turned it around in the last few weeks. Those in trouble, bad trouble but who have responded a bit just recently and are now just in a bit of bother.” (Sort of moved from inadequate to requires improvement). We saw her again at the weekend. “Guess what John, I was dead right about who won awards”.

“Have you ever won an award R?”

“No John. I just turn up every day and do my work, not always very well, sometimes I don’t get it but I do generally try – no rewards for me.”

Teachers, Heads of Year, SLT never forget those ordinary pupils who do that, attend, try, work, sit quietly, are a bit reserved, never give you bother, but can be overlooked. Never forget because they are special and need special treatment, they might not get an award but they can still be loved, recognised, noticed, and never overlooked.

You wont be surprised I’ve gone out of my way to congratulate the sixth former for the great things I’ve heard about him. He smiled, and thanked me, as we used to say in the recent past every child matters – make sure those middle roaders really do. It should mark out the true comprehensive.


Some questions to thinks about:

Q1 How do we teachers and perhaps especially SLT make sure we look after the majority , hen the minority can sap time and energy?

Q2 How to reward the ordinary who are really extra ordinary

Q3 Remember those gifted and talented debates? Who is gifted? Answer = Everyone!


For those working in a faith school

Ephesians 4:7

Each one of us has received a special gift in proportion to what Christ has given.

Acts 4:13

The members of the Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 7:7

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.

3 thoughts on “Thursday Period 1- Overlooking the Ordinary. No they are Special.

  1. Hello,
    Thank you for probably the most thought provoking piece on education I have read in a while…As a director of a charity specialising in supporting those children who need extra help to succeed at school…and as a school governor, we often get so ‘hung up’ on targeting the children at either end of the spectrum..but as a mother of four, the majority of ‘ordinary’ ‘don’t rock the boat’ children become invisible in an ever more chaotic education system…and they are in danger of becoming the forgotten ones..
    Thank you for reminding me, as much as everyone else in education we are here for them all, and they all have something to give.
    Kind regards
    Jacqueline Cottam


    • Thank you for taking time to respond and your kind words. It is a reminder to me too – pupils often slip in and out if need and drama and we must look out for that, but the ordinary deserve their fair share.


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