Say how you feel this Christmas

21st December 2007 at 00:00
As a nation, we find it hard to say what we are thinking. "Thanks ever so," we will gush next week, opening presents we don't want. "Lovely party," we will say, "So sorry we have to leave early", when we know full well that the kids are at Granny's, but we just can't stand the cheese straws any longer.

So is it any wonder that communicating at work, where it really matters, is so hard?

I am lucky in that I work in a very supportive school when it comes to personal matters. We always have a sympathetic ear and can rely on senior staff to help.

But we are less good at asking if it is a work matter. When we are struggling to cope with a particular pupil, or going under with the piles of marking, we find it harder to ask for help. Staged intervention should hold the key, but some sort of personal embarrassment often means it isn't used properly.

We know that, sometimes, it is a teacher's fault that classes are out of control. But it seems almost rude to mention the fact that our class was silent because they were enjoying the noise from the next room so much. Or we fall back on agreeing that those particular kids are horrendous, rather than establishing why they seem to have gained the upper hand.

I once taught in a school where I struggled daily. Yet three of the senior management team had offices close enough to hear the din and they never once intervened either directly or indirectly. I was too defeated to admit how bad things were.

At other times, all is well in class, but staff still feel unsupported and unappreciated because no one thinks to congratulate them on doing a good job and getting good results.

And sometimes, relations fall to an all-time low because neither side knows how to say what they are thinking.

So, a Christmas wish would be that everyone finds the confidence to say what they feel, and that everyone gets the confidence to hear what is trying to be said without feeling under attack.

A new year's resolution could be to learn how to complain without being too petulant, to ask for help without being too scared of the consequences, and to ask for what we need with our heads held high.

Happy Christmas and an articulate new year!

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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