Welcome to thinking thoughts for the new academic year. For new staff, each week I send out something to make us stop and think – about teaching, or life in schools, or sometimes more general musings (I blame lockdown for this). It’s an email you’re welcome to take to heart and ponder deeply, skim read and feel refreshed for a moment, ignore, or delete – completely up to you.
Today we turn back to Paula Worth, who wrote a beautiful blog I shared during lockdown 3, all about her mistakes and what they taught her (https://lobworth.com/2021/01/24/teaching-sympathy-and-the-art-of-kintsugi/). It’s taken her 18 months to blog again, and as before it’s thoughtful and wonderful. She takes 3 paintings that remind her of important truths in a new school year. Here she describes the final one:-
This painting, by de Hooch, shows nothing more impressive than a mother patiently removing nits from her child’s hair. There is a kindly afternoon light showing through a window, and a small pet that might be comforting to stroke…De Hooch suggests that there is something honourable about patiently attending to the needs of a child. Just like there is something honourable in keeping the classroom tidy, turning up to break duty on time, patiently going through a difficult homework task with Johnny from 9B.
I’ll never be able to alter what parents, colleagues or students think of me. But I can remember that my work carries some importance, however small that is, and – perhaps more importantly – that my teaching work is not easy to manage. Alain de Botton, who has inspired this blog-post, talks of the immense skill and true nobility that is involved in teaching a child, maintaining a good relationship with a partner, keeping a home in reasonable order, and – in general – not succumbing to the madness and rage of Thinking Skills and Learning Styles.
The painting isn’t inviting me to claim that what I’m doing in teaching is invariably impressive. It merely directs me with grace to the idea that there is much to appreciate in the forthcoming academic year. Perhaps a few new students might like my stories. Perhaps I’ll be a helpful, friendly face for a new teaching colleague on a scary Thursday morning. Perhaps Johnny – if not Freddie or Saskia – might listen to me when it’s time to teach 9B.
Which seemed to fit with much of what was said on our Inset Day – the tiny things matter more than we’ll ever know. And sometimes we can only do the tiny things. And that’s okay.
Have a good day