Energise them for the long haul

16th November 2007 at 00:00
For some reason, lots of important concepts and ideas begin with "e". Last time, I wrote of the importance of enthusiasm in the middle management role. If I had to pick a vibrant and effective partner to compliment enthusiasm, it would be encouragement.

Years ago, an older and wiser friend of mine was listening patiently to my whingeing. I was venting frustration at my inability to drive forward what I felt to be important changes in a particular curriculum area. When I had finished, he asked me to imagine I was running a marathon and that I had just hit the "wall". What is it that my trainer could say to me that would keep me going? There were three main strategies he could employ. He could give me information: "You've got 10 miles to go!" He could nag me: "Pick up your pace! Get moving!" Or he could encourage me: "You've done so well, you've come so far, you can be proud of yourself!"

I understood what my friend was getting at, but I had a problem with it. "Sometimes people need to be informed and nagged," I said. "Absolutely," he said, "but nagging and informing someone who is discouraged will get you nowhere."

This part of the year can be a real slog, with shorter days leading to shorter tempers in every part of school. The term can seem long and the energy of the summer is running out fast. We cannot afford to just write off vital weeks in the longest term, but we can show understanding by making the encouragement of our colleagues the foundation of everything else we try to do.

So what would encourage your team or those who teach the subject you lead? Put a chocolate bar in their in-tray or make a point of sharing your appreciation for their efforts. Buy some extra-nice biscuits for your team meeting or congratulate them on something well done.

It is important to remember that teaching will only become a thankless task when we stop saying "thank you" to each other.

Peter Greaves, Deputy head, Dovelands Primary in Leicester.

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