As I get older, I notice that the group of people in my life that I consider to be "close friends" has got smaller.
What’s more is the people I think really "get" me and I feel comfortable around are not really the people I see very often.
I don’t live in the same country as some of my closest friends, nor do I keep regular contact (my friends will definitely attest to that). But a connection still remains.
Like all our relationships, the time spent together in the same physical space only forms a small part of our relationship. Much of our relationships take place when we’re not together.
It takes place in the moments when I listen to music that reminds me of the times I went out with my friends to London and we lost ourselves dancing to 1990s music.
It happens when I see something in a shop my sister would like and remember our shopping trips to Brighton together.
It happens when I go on holiday and I wish I could be there with my family because they would love it too.
Our relationships to others can in fact grow more meaningful in the time and space between seeing each other.
The space between
I always remember my mentor talking to me about the "counselling magic" when working with students.
He wasn’t talking about counselling being a magic wand that could magically fix people’s problems. He was talking about the space between counselling sessions (or any support intervention) being where the "magic happens".
We as teachers, with the best of intentions, may want to fix whatever problems we see that students are facing.
Perhaps we will have discussions with them and put different interventions in place in order to help them, such as a referral to counselling services or a study plan.
We can offer them something tangible in an attempt to bring about a more positive change.
However, the change doesn’t take place in the moment of intervention – it happens in the space and time between.
Trust in the magic
In the moment, emotions can be running high and the time and space between interventions can allow students (and ourselves) to reflect on the conversation, the questions asked, the observations highlighted and the guidance offered.
The "magic" is mysterious; we may not know exactly what it is that can and hopefully will end up working. Change may be immediate or after an extended period – it could be a significant change, or barely perceptible.
It could be something that was said, it could be a moment where things "clicked", it could be because of someone "seeing and noticing" the students and showing genuine care.
Just as our relationships don’t stop because people aren’t there, support and help for students can be most meaningful in the space between. That’s where the magic is.
Sadie Hollins is head of sixth form at a British-curriculum school in Thailand, and has been teaching internationally for two years