This is a version of a farewell evening celebration with colleagues, ex colleagues, support staff, and ex students, perhaps 200+. It was a wonderful occasion thanks to my amazing colleagues, fantastic students and supportive parents, there is no attempt to capture the atmosphere at the National College on Friday just my musings shared with an audience used to my storytelling.
I did my training in Oxford in 1980 to 81 before the majority of you were born, starting teaching in Witney, Oh hang on, no in 1981 I got married and could never have survived without the huge patience of my wife! Wood Green was a rural comp a great school to learn how to teach with wonderful colleagues. Secondary modern teachers who could and did teach really well, I learned the craft. My most telling moment at the end of Y1 invited to the options meeting when lists came out with those who chose our subjects – remember no national curriculum so anyone could do anything – we just had a few rules like ‘you should all do a science’. I picked up the chemistry list and was looking over it. Sat next to me the PE teacher who was hoping to introduce CSE PE. He was huffing and tutting and the deputy boomed “hey Tony what’s the matter?” He was shaking his head….”well I’ve got a right bunch here look Richard Smith, he’s useless he can’t even swim”. I thought to myself gosh I would not like a chemist who say couldn’t write well,or manipulate apparatus and the deputy boomed out. “Tony hey Tony You’re a bloody PE teacher, teach him to bloody swim. ***Colleagues now and again forget Ofsted SLT and heads and ‘bloody teach them’.
Back in 1981. I wanted to teach and inspire children with Chemistry, and science and I saw education helping people escape the black and white dull world of car factories and dead end jobs, maybe even failry dead end existences, where I had grown up. ( …”have life abundantly”)Escape into a bright new colourful world of opportunity, learning, culture, and moral purpose- sorry but I was the idealist “make the world a better place” All very grand.
When I moved to Nottingham I got a shock I arrived in 1985 to find the children were all a year older than I was used to. My Y9 were as streetwise as the Y10 in rural Oxfordshire. I learnt a lesson ***TRY and keep pupils young, help them enjoy childhood as far as you can, allow them to be excited and curious by discovering the world not by inhabiting their pre-adult dream or what is in fact a nightmare. I also met City kids and parents, having harsh words with Angus, who no one seemed to control, a colleague asked about my day, I related the story , it had been fine save this bad behaviour. My colleague asked what I was doing now… a class and then a club…”No John you go home, his Dad is …well he lives nearby, he’ll be here soon, you just go home, the last row resulted in 2 staff with broken noses.
I didn’t like the 80’s industrial action meant no one around before or after school or lunch and no after school events. No chance to talk about my subject my pupils, their learning. Schools became black and white and not what I wanted. It was my lowest point and a time ready to leave the profession.
I looked to one last go at teaching as GCSE came in but felt a need to move school because the head wouldn’t let me teach my preferred GCSE syllabus. The one I felt would be best for our children “will it get us better results Mr Dexter?” How on earth would I know, we didn’t even know at that point know what grades would be used, we had a draft spec not proper ones – sounds familiar! So eventually I came to Trinity moving from County to City in 1989 with one small baby and another on the way Hannah – heck where have those years gone? They are both Drs now.
Bernard Bonner, the headteacher, told me I would be trusted, I could decide what to teach, and how to teach; that I would deliver or I would be sacked. He told me how wonderful the school was – others will recall it wasn’t quite so. We visited a feeder school St Augustine’s to speak to Y6 and one parent turned up, many Catholic families sent their children to non RC schools because…well they were better. In my first y12 lesson after 3 simple questions half the class (3) burst into tears please can you stop asking such hard questions! Literally and metaphorically OMg. They were great years in the 90’s working with other fantastic staff and making science work in the school, lots of innovation and fantastic science colleagues, and helping build a better experience for children more widely. Introducing Salters’ Chemistry bought me and the pupils wonderful opportunities and results and a chance to travel to Canada and Sweden and to write a book. I wrote a chemistry book for the less able, that’s an old fashioned word ‘less able’. So when we came to choose new textbooks for the double awards, I got a deal for the head of science, he came back to me I’ve ordered 120 of the texts for the ‘most able’ a copy each and a set for school. And I’ve ordered 10 of yours John they don’t take them home and it’s small classes – that earned me 30p x 10 = £3.00 ( less tax) and a five sides of paperwork about pecuniary interests. I am deeply grateful to those science colleagues who have always looked out for me and put up with my busyness and never moaned about having me in the dept – well not to me anyway!
I have really enjoyed my jobs over those 36.25 years- I’ve taught 7250 days less the 4 I’ve been off sick, so very fortunate with my health. I think that’s about 26,000 lessons plus a few covers and for my fist 10 years a hell of a lot of parading up and down invigilating. A good few assemblies BUT as head of sixth form they were recycled, well evolved every 2 years, though some moved from using acetate to PowerPoint. I’ve worked with about 300 teachers and loved working with all of them …except 2. And I think I’ve taught just over 5000 pupils, well I say taught we’ve all shared the same space for a few hours – I think great lessons are still a mystery, magical, planned but brought to life. My favourite days were in the sixth form and grateful to those who were tutors with me and deputies. Sixth formers who need a good kick and a good love to get them through.
I came to Trinity and we had less than 1p per pupil per lesson to spend on chemicals; no worksheets copied, a few bandas for very special lessons but a very colourless world in text and a few simple diagrams in textbooks. Not much data, just my mark book, and lesson plans. I knew my classes inside out – much like colleagues do now. When I started Trinity had 2 telephones, 2 secretaries a somewhat absent lab tech but great teachers, and a great ethos which many staff, parents and pupils have bought into, experienced and have helped develop. It has been important to me and others to understand that ethos, to work at it, to help children and parents to see it – a moral purpose and a Catholic Christian faith. I have no doubt those purposes are safe as I leave –Trinity should always help children to aim high, work hard, persevere, participate collaborate, and challenge. It will carry on , I hope we’ve embedded it very deep.
I’ve spoken enough to the staff so I don’t need to pass on any advice it’s been ignored enough already 🙂 but *** please use your teacher instinct your classroom nouse to deliver great lessons. ***Do not allow paperwork and data to get you down. Get a grip – better to know Johnny boy struggles with “this”, and will react well to “the other” and can learn this bit, than to know he is level 8.4.3 and to get to 8.4.4 he needs to cross his t’s, oh but hang on he’s slipped back by forgetting to dot the i, oh right back to FFT he’s now 8.3.4 and heck we must get it written on his progress sheet in purple. Where’s my purple pen? Sometimes educational policy feels mad!
- I have some proud moments – winning an RSC medal and a nominated for a Salters award were good but the best bit was Bernard Bonner speaking to the press – “I’m amazed John won those, I’ve no idea how he did it.”
- I am proud of the badges we won from external visitors – Ofsteds, HMI, Diocesan peeps though we have never greatly trumpted them, and I am most proud of the letters and emails and conversations with parents and pupils over the years., and in recent days. We do the job to help children and families not to impress Ofsted – that’s why over 600 families want a year 7 place this year.
- I’ve been proud of the schools achievements for music and sport – sixth form county cup winners was a highlight, Sheku at the Barbican was an incredible moment but I’m just as proud of the child who, when the whole of Y9 play in concert to Y7 and Y8, I asked if he was excited to play and he said “sort of, I’m a bit scared”…go on I said…”well Sir can you remind me what those different black dots mean” then he played his part lifting the standard. I’m glad some of my sixthformers got to decent Universities, sad for those who ended up at Cambridge ( speaks a St Catz man) but just as delighted to hear of them being happy with family life, with voluntary work and especially wanting to send their children to Trinity even when they didn’t necessarily have a good experience themselves etc. Twitter brought to melots of ex chemists including one, now a director at CAFOD, email brought me an ex student winning East Midland entrepreneur of the year – he told me I run it like Trinity – I recently appointed a bloke who didn’t interview well but he’s been transformed because we gave him a job and believed in him.
I’ve been in leadership a long time 20 years sometimes thrust upon me because I wanted things to be done a bit better but maybe never quite managed that as colleagues will testify. Many years with experienced wise and very passionate, sometimes too passionate colleagues, hilarious moments, difficult moments, Thank you for all of them. The heads job can be taxing – whenever a leader comes in and the sentence starts “I need to tell you about…” I take a deep breath – great leaders that they are, they nearly always also bring a solution along with a problem but not always and I have often thought —-how do I solve this if those clever, sensible experienced people can’t. Trinity has experienced, wise, hard working leaders, I’m sure staff get frustrated with us at times but we too have the heart for Trinity and a heart for the job you all do. I have to thank each of the 6 of them for tireless work, great personal support and a friendship which of the many aspects I will miss when I leave will be the most difficult for me. Between us 140 years at Trinity
Tuesday was Y7 parents evening two Y7 were awaiting their parents, one said to me “I think I know all the teachers names Sir”, and the other butted in “I think I know your first name Sir its John”….just a small reminder what a big big thing it is finding the teachers name. Then the first said “well that’s obvious it’s printed on the wall there by those photos. Why are those photos there Sir?” Me”well they are the school leaders” “what do they do ( such a good question!) me “they tend to go grey early and earn the most money…and we try and run the school. Oh I see just like a family then, grandparents, parents…. How perceptive!
All of you have had different roles in the Trinity family- I hope you enjoy or enjoyed your time in the family, I hope you will keep in touch and most of all I hope you younger staff will keep that family atmosphere and the high ambition and in time pick up the baton. WE have created something special and I am very proud to have worked so long at Trinity and to have changed lives usually for the better and sometimes in the most unlikely of young people. That’s why I started in in 1980 and now in 2017 I might finish with QED > what we set out to do. “make the world a better place”.
I’ll add a few photos later
Here is the Link to a few comments on fb
We said farewells at the end of term just a few, six colleagues we waved goodbye to BUT we also celebrated three reaching a grand milestone – 25 years. Three highly respected colleagues who just completed 25 years at one school, ours, Trinity.
So 25 years ago what was happening – well lots: Labour hated its leader, one Neil Kinnock and the Tories were on a “back to basics” campaign with Mr Major. More important PC world opened its first shop and Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. So schools themselves look very different today but in a way they don’t – we had great teachers then and we need them now and the tools of the trade might change but the craft and trade do not.When teachers join any school , experienced or not they are still new and these three join five other colleagues who have also completed their 25 years -thats 8 of us nearly 10% staff. It is a very special achievement and I’m delighted that our governors understand that and reward those colleagues for their commitment. It is not exactly equivalent to a testimonial for a loyal footballer but it is a recognition.
It did make me think about Matthew Syed’s book ‘Bounce’ which has been all the rage in schools, and incidentally well worth a read – I actually met a headteacher who bought it for the whole of his Y11, then moaned that the girls performance improved but the boys didn’t and then apparently Ofsted had a go at one of their ‘gaps’ getting bigger. Thankfully whether true or anecdotal we are in new Ofsted framework. But back to Syed who seems to say put in 10,000 hours hard work and you get to be really good. Some have pushed that idea for learners maybe coupled with a bit of growth mindset and Dweck. However it got me thinking about teachers – 25 years must be well over 10,000 hours, nearer 18,000 of teaching in same place and I think he is right these teachers have become experts, really good, both at teaching and at teaching in our school and in leading. People who stay a course like that make the school effective these are the characters in my school who have helped understand the ethos, mission and moral purpose and yet also help create the ethos and therefore also help to sustain the ethos. These are the people colleagues turn to when somebody comes as a new teacher ( well and also old teachers and even older headteachers) and when they wonder ” Is that what happens here? Do they really do that?” for better or worse the answer is known. The colleagues around say yes that is what we do, it is delivered by an incredible level of consistency. They are without doubt respected by pupils, parents and colleagues. These are the colleagues who have helped establish traditions, activities which over many years we have evolved and some we changed if they’ve not been effective, some we’ve dropped if they’ve been ineffective. We’ve redone ideas and modified them and we have a rich seam of curricular and extra curricular whole school activities. We like new and young teachers, don’t get me wrong, we like their passion, enthusiasm, ideas and approaches and we like to learn and try things out but we also have a bit of an instinct as to what works and what doesn’t. As a church school that includes our whole school events like Masses or liturgies but it includes sports days and swimming galas, music concerts etc it includes prize-giving and it includes a discussion such as ‘should we run prizegiving this way or that way’. What do we stand for, and how do we live that out? Reliability, longevity, tradition, stability, consistency …outcomes – I think that’s what we get.
Our school has done well in outcomes and it is an outstanding school, it’s also very popular with parents and I could not help thinking the contribution of longstanding wisdom is pretty critical. High turnover at the top of other organisations including the DfE is what we often see across educational landscapes maybe the lack of longevity brings a lack of stability and contributes to an occasional lack of depth or a frequent lack of understanding and frustrations, maybe even a lack of progress, the fact that the standards are not as high as they should be. My other favourite book Collin’s ‘Good to great’ would lead to a similar conclusion. In my early days (80’s) of teaching you wouldn’t expect any responsibility point or pay increases until a couple of years worth of Y11 exam results were under your belt – prove yourself at the sharp end.
Fast turnover might make a business more efficient and it might make a company run better but whether it actually gives better outcomes I don’t know, but one thing I do know is that these long lasting teachers hold something very special in their hands because it’s from their hearts, possibly their souls. They have invested a huge amount of time and their life in the school. It might be why our retainment remains pretty high? We always say to young teachers that rules for discipline are important and they must be applied consistently and clearly, when you’ve got people at school for such a long time, the consistency is probably second to none. However it is also about accountability for me – whilst I’ve written elsewhere about accountability to governors, to the diocese, to OFSTED, to parents and pupils, there is a greater daily accountability which is to those respected colleagues. As well as being accountable to them for day to day decisions, we have to make the decisions together and these are the supportive conscientious peers, if they make a criticism it is a genuine criticism, it has to be heard because they have given so much of their time energy and yes their life to the work of the school. I just wonder if anybody out there really understands the huge effect of stability and longevity. Our leadership team has now completed 133 years at the school 77 of them in leadership. I can’t help thinking if something of the success of the school is not down to the fact of the commitments and longevity of those people. I do hope it continues and I do hope stability that we enjoy is something that others can consider in their organisations. Oh and PS we bid farewell to an unsung hero in our office, a secretary retiring – after 27 years with us.
Two years ago I came to teach a lower ability Y10 class, never taught any of them before and as I called the first register I had taught an older sibling or parent of 21 of the 26. When I set them their first homework everyone handed it in save one boy lets call him Ryan –
“Your homework wasn’t done Ryan” Ruan’s shoulders shrug.
“Why not?” said I, “should I ring your older sister?”
“No Sir please not Rebecca”
“Ok your older brother”
“No No. He’ll be very cross ”
“Ok I’ll call on your Mum on my way home. Ryan:”
“Sir ……can I give it you at break”
Gosh the job just got a little easier.
For those in a church school
2 Samuel 14:20 Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.”
Proverbs 4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
Q1 What is the right balance in schools of new ideas and older wisdom?
Q2 Is it possible to avoid complacency in the search for constancy?
Q3 What is your experience of the wisdom of elders?
Q4 A qestion raised after a twitter conversation with Jon Thompson @poachermullen just how will the profession adapt as it ages and as teachers have to work longer? How do we ensure those wise experienced staff remain enthusiastic and able to do the job? How do we plan for that? Looking after each other? How? Secondments during the career? What do you think?
I recall a press visit a few years ago when the whole Jamie Oliver ‘healthy food” stuff was kicking off and a call for us to teach ‘proper’ cooking. The journalist from a broadsheet came to school and at one point asked the head and me how we might fit yet another thing into the curriculum. “After all” he said, “you have citizenship, financial literacy, healthy eating, fitness, democracy, relationships, driver awareness etc “Well” said the head, “it’s quite easy we start at 8.50, do all those things and then send the children home at 3.30 where their Mums’ and Dads’ teach them Physics Geography, Art, Maths and English literature”
I like to remind myself there are 168 hours in the week or about 112 waking hours and we have the pupils in school to teach and influence for 25 which is about 20% of their lives. Parents there is a job for you to do there!! There is a lot to do in school and a lot to teach and that’s why we have a curriculum. There are of course trips and activities beyond the classroom – vital and I’ve blogged that elsewhere. The government recently announced a project to bring Rugby players into school to teach resilience – it might be the army to teach discipline, or chefs to produce the next generation of Mary Berry’s or in case you forgot that infamous Olympic legacy: bring in a few gold medalists who will inspire a great gold haul in 2016 – we’ll see won’t we! (and got the feeling ‘teachers‘ will take the blame for a lesser haul). Sport and all sorts can teach us a LOT I have no doubt there -this is one of my favourite images to use at school -it is the expression of fulfillment agony, ecstasy, joy and pain. I use it a lot.
Actually though what we need is good quality teachers and support staff. That is a responsibility a bit beyond my remit. As a school we are very happy to help fully in ITT through teaching alliances, through PGCE with HE providers, in fact to help in any way at all. I don’t want a Rugby player thank you! Ofsted won’t really be happy if my pupils are full of character but have poor qualifications, more important neither will their parents neither us teachers, nor the spooky “global economy”. It’s not either/or, it’s about growing characters as they grow up and learn. Ha schools – places of teaching, learning and Education ( drawing out).
Please don’t get me wrong we love our “heroes” In recent years we have had all sorts of special assemblies, afternoons, meetings; some for the whole school some for a year group some for subject groups, some schools have big traditions like prizegivings. We have a sports award afternoon when many local hero sports starts visit us. They have all been great: from David Jackson a local rugby player, Etienne Stott and Rebecca Adlington olympic gold medallists, but also some of our own ex students: Panthers stars, football stars and equestrian stars and rowing stars. They come in chat informally and formally and their example and words have impact. I really appreciate their contribution, their story and their inspiring words, and even the extras – popping in to see students. We have had our local MP in school, a very memorable holocaust survivor from the HET, a famous northern poet, and a local writer, we even had a cosmonaut. I could go on check out our website for stories of those visits. They are vital, most schools do them, we all do them in different ways, but we all do them. In fact I bet if you look at any school website there will be a story of some sort of visit. Some schools can get bigger stars and celebrities it doesn’t matter, we all do what we can. These are celebrations, visitors confirm what we stand for and they do inspire and challenge pupils BUT the big influence goes on in classrooms day by day. 40 weeks 25 hours ( well minus those spent in these assemblies) .
We don’t teach behaviour, character, integrity as ‘subjects’ we discuss them, we model them we point out good and bad examples of them, we do it every day in classrooms and on corridors. When I say we do,I mean teachers do. Therefore we need good teachers, good at their subject, good at relationships and good at pedagogy. Whatever clever ideas we leaders might have without good people in our classrooms we won’t be able to teach Physics or teach character or inspire our children. We won’t improve the lot of EAL pupils, of PP children or CLA – or any children. AS my forst Director of Education Sir Tim Brighouse said: “Good schools get the right teacher in the right place with the right class at the right time..easy” for the occasions when I have been the right person in the right place, I am proud and privilged for the people I have taught each and every one a genuine (and usually a lovely) character.
Please can someone ensure a good supply of teachers and a place to start might be to make the profession attractive again, to talk up teachers and to listen to practitioners as to what is needed to make it more attractive. But hey, if you politicians pile more onto us, pile more work our way, cut our budgets and slow to a drip the supply of teachers…..as well as talking us all down and blaming us, you’‘ll be needing more than a rugby team to turn that around. Meanwhile me and our staff will just keep up the day job, teaching our 1100 mix of little characters.
This blog did remind me of a lesson I covered with a Y8 class in which a little boy couldn’t log on. He said he forgot his password – try and recall it I said and he began…Snow white, Grumpy, Dumbo, Nemo, Robin Hood, Mickey Mouse…er…er.
Q1 Building these personal attributes is vital – how do we most effectively do so as teachers?
Q2 What do you think are the most vital characteristics to have and to avoid? Confidence can so easily become arrogance. Humility so often self deprecation!
Q3 Teaching, Learning or passing the baton?
For those in a Church school:
Ruth 3:11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.
Romans 5:3 we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Proverbs 6:23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life,
You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.
I was at school when there were extensive discussions about banning the cane. One fairly significant argument was: “well I was never caned at school and it never did me any harm”. The implication being that the cane kept us in good order and thus helped the majority. This blogpost is about rewards, and frankly, I was rarely praised or rewarded at school. Maybe it did or maybe it didn’t do me any harm. I’ll finish my story later. I am definitely not someone who thinks we offer some financial cash rewards for each GCSE ( as a school or as a parent) and will fairly despair if our job of education only seems to get done by offering financial rewards. There is much research showing this is pretty redundant, moreso for many of us, it’s not likely to instil lifelong learning skills and the kind of education we want for the generation .So how do schools celebrate success, in fact what do we mean by success and how to reward excellence? It’s not the winning but the taking part, so do we just reward all who take part or just winners? Then we find it difficult to decide winners, oh hang let’s do nothing to anyone in case someone is offended or upset or overlooked.
Here are my top five of thoughts on rewards
1. The big occasion
I recall my own school’s prize days in the 70’s, long speeches I never followed, and a day off in lieu granted by the speakers wife usually!. We will shortly hold our school presentation evening, we use the local “Albert Hall ( Nottingham sorry not London). We have an evening with a few short speeches, aimed at the pupils, parents and teachers. We have our honours, about 75 pupils for subjects, for contribution, for effort for battling against the odds and for achievement. Every year will be represented, every ability but sure emphasis rests with the Y13 and Y11 who will be the role models others can aspire to. The pupils who watch can see that they too can ‘make it’ yes they can, they really can, because these are our pupils from our school who have enjoyed success. The bulk of the evening will be a musical celebration with the best of our orchestras, music groups and choirs. It will be top quality and uplifting for all in a way only music can do. The audience will be staff and parents, grandparents ex students guests. When our previous Head suggested the event, many of us thought it would last a few years but here we are 22 years worth of celebrations on.
We used to celebrate sport that evening too but this made for a very long evening. So we now have a separate sports event on a Friday afternoon in October – local sports stars generously come and help us celebrate. Our competitive teams, our sports stars, our selected pupils and our internal house teams ( swimming gala athletics football, rugby cricket cross country….you know the sort) video clips and some good humour from the staff too. A great event to mark the work of hundreds of pupils and of course PE staff and all those who take teams and go the extra distance literally.
2 The extraordinary occasion.
Not so long ago we worried that our post 16 students were getting lots of advice, lots of suggestions as to how to improve and messages from me and others to ‘work harder’. We felt the need for a rebalance and introduced an ‘Oscars” – students nominated by staff not just because they were achieving but because they were trying, they had listened and learnt, and they were progressing. A message publicly that we have noticed and we say well done. We repeat these medal awards at the very end of the year on the day they dress up as Y11 and we say farewell. In other year groups we applaud the sports teams weekly, we offer the certificates for getting into a special place.
3 The bread and butter.
Our Y7 to 9 have merits, they have varying degrees of enthusiasm to collect them and I guess the same is true of staff who show varying degrees of enthusiasm to hand them out. Despite the fact we can’t quite create fully workable rules the system works and pupils do work to collect them. They do try and the things we ask them to do are recognised on the bigger stage. Certificates, presentations in assembly and what I do really love, their peer group applaud as they recognise something special themselves. We have only recently introduced rewards in Upper school Y10 and Y11, pupils collect them and after gathering a number complete a card. Once complete this becomes a chance for a bigger reward as we have a draw for some prizes like book tokens, meals etc We recently had a group of Brazilian teachers visit school, a few of our Portuguese speakers helped out showing them around and interpreting in lessons. When I thanked the pupils who did great job, written all over their faces was “Sir any chance of a merit?”. There can be great ways here to involve school councils and the proverbial ‘pupil voice’
4 The regular routines.
In lesson time and form time and extra curricular time there are merits but there are also significant responses. The pupil giving the subject a good go, the one who really tries to learn for a test, the one who listens to what was said at their parents evening , or maybe the one who happily takes the CAFOD box around or the poppies. A recent report said ‘lavish praise’ doesn’t work, I think the headline should be ‘false praise’ doesn’t work. It is important in schools to say thank you, well done; to ring home with good news as well as with concerns. It is nice, it’s appropriate and it’s probably important to send and receive a letter from school just to say something slightly out of the ordinary has been noted.
5 The most effective – the informal.
The teacher who notices. Notices the pupils tried, notices there has been improvement, notices that the task was actually quite a big challenge and it was managed. We recently had our swimming gala and the races are hard fought. Some younger pupils filled with enthusiasm volunteered to swim but unknown to us they were not the fastest of ‘fish’ in the pool. How wonderful to hear a whole audience of Y7 to 9 cheer and clap and appreciate the last person home as they gained…just the point, that really was the ‘taking part’ and the PB ( personal best). The “pincer” movement is even more effective, pass the little message to a Head of Year or to a form teacher and let them also pass on gratitude or thanks – watch the smile and see it encourage even more contribution, and effort.
A lot of our pupils, whatever we may think, really do lack self confidence, they are growing up in an uncertain world and I have always found it a challenge to convince them they really are good, capable and can aim even higher. Keep an eye out for those five ways.
So to my story of school, at one of those Grammars oft touted as bringing social mobility ( which it did for me but by accident methinks! Top of my class in Y7 I was rewarded with a book, an atlas. In Y8 I didn’t come top, but second and my report said: “Now even Dexter has learnt that there is no substitute for hard work” a phrase I have occasionally used myself. Despite not a single absence, a clutch of decent O Levels and A Levels and a place at a fairly prestigious University; the first in my family to even stay on past 14 let alone get into HE – well just one more book in Y9, and hey the lack of reward never did you any harm Dexter! There is a spectrum of views about rewards, from overdoing them to under-doing them. I still say to all my classes or year groups, don’t expect rewards for doing what I ask or for turning up for school That’s what we expect, but extra efforts, fulfilling parts of the schools ethos, and maintaining persistently high standards should always be recognised.
Some questions to consider
Q1 Should we give rewards, or do they offer the wrong incentives?
Q2 It is often them same (few) names who get nominated for rewards and prizes, as they are the best should they keep winning, or how do we share out rewards?
Q3 Are we all winners, or does that make us all losers?
Q4 What ways do you have to reward, celebrate and promote successes?
For those in a church school
Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
2 Kings 23:21 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”
Proverbs 9:12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.
1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Luke 15:23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.