"All the small things
True care, truth brings"
Blink 182 sum up their whole song in the first two lines. Their 1999 hit was written for guitarist Tom DeLonge's wife (as apparently she moaned about him always writing songs about other women!), and it clearly explains the importance of caring about others, and showing them how important they are. Sometimes the "smallest way" can make all the difference in the world to someone. In schools, it is often the small things, that make a big difference too.
Noticing the small things
Some people are solely preoccupied with their teaching. Perhaps they should be; that is our core purpose.
I've heard teachers say, "It is not my responsibility to check uniform." which is unhelpful from a whole school point of view. It's worth remembering that students rarely have too much loyalty and will frequently point out, "Mr X didn't say anything about my nose-stud". Brilliant.
I'd argue that it is the responsibility of all staff to notice the small things, and those who don't, should be challenged.
Picking up on the small things
It is really hard work constantly picking up on the small things, and carrying them through.
- What do you do when a student is 5 mins late, but your lesson isn't followed by break or lunch?
- How do you record who hasn't got a pen or their exercise book, especially when you want to get the lesson started?
- To what extent do you chase up uniform, especially if they don't have their uniform cards to sign?
- When do you find the time to chase every piece of missing homework?
- Do you challenge a student who has an extra earring in, hidden by her hair, if she is behaving well in your lesson (for once!)?
- You ask a student to see you at lunch for 5mins over a minor issue. They don't turn up. What do you do?
I think, if you do pick up on these small things, you will only need to do it for a while. The greatest thing I had a student say to me was, "You're strict, but at least you are strict all the time... with everyone". However it really is hard work - it is a relentless and tiresome battle, and one that potentially starts again every September.
Yet many would suggest if we allow the small things to persist, unchallenged, then all of a sudden, sometimes without warning, the bigger things will follow. When things slip, and keep slipping, it can be really hard to turn around. This can happen on a small scale, in an individual classroom, or on a much larger scale, whole-school.
My recommendation, is to be organised and put in place systems anticipating the problems. Some staff write down everything in their planner or on SIMs (which is so handy if and when the issues escalate with the student). Schools need systems that are workable for teachers. Rules need to be as clear as possible, with sanctions easy enough to implement, and are followed through. Always. All the small things, true care, truth brings.