1st September 2013
We have now survived two school weeks and everyone is still smiling- most of the time. I would like to think this week about familiarity. We often hear that it breeds contempt but I would like to argue otherwise. I think the type of familiarity alluded to here is probably more accurately described as lack of respect. Interestingly the dictionary definition does mention this.
The type of familiarity I would like to explore is the more literal- knowing someone or something well. I am frequently impressed by how well the staff know the children in their care. This doesn’t just include the child, where he lives, siblings, family and so on, but more importantly likes, dislikes, areas of strength, areas needing developed, learning styles, support needs, character traits and quirks (and thank goodness for those!) It can even extend to handwriting, writing style and tone, which tables they are likely to know, who would be good at leading certain projects. The list is endless.
I have often heard a parent say-”yes, you have him/her to a tee!”
In many schools at this time of year, classes will be starting to get to know each other- it may be there is a new mix of children or that they are with a teacher who does not know them. When I worked in a large school, I used to set myself the task of getting to know all 30 odd names by the end of the second week- partly as a survival technique. I did this by having a plan of where everybody sat and seeing it as a map in my head. Of course there were some names you learned very quickly!
We are lucky in Humbie and Saltoun that all the staff know all the children and vice-versa. At the beginning of a year the make-up of the classes may be new but all children will be familiar to the staff. Because of this, transition into school and between year groups is easier and less time is required for settling in and familiarisation- work can begin almost immediately, much to the children’s delight!
Another benefit of small schools and composite class structures is that staff have the opportunity to teach children for more than one year- in the case of Humbie perhaps for 6 years! My experience of this as a class teacher ( I taught one particular year group for 5 years and they still speak to me!) has led me to the belief that this level of familiarity can be a very positive force. It is a little like being a family- you are well aware of each other’s foibles and habits but love each other still the same. There is some comfort in being able to predict who will react positively to suggestions, who will enthusiastically lead a project, who will need support in believing in their ability to manage certain tasks and even who will crack the funny remarks at the back of the class. All of this helps in dealing with and managing the many situations that arise in a school day or year and also adds to job satisfaction.
So I would suggest to you that familiarity of this kind does nor breed contempt, but rather engenders affection, tolerance, enjoyment, a sense of belonging and of course an extremely effective way of working. Perhaps you disagree- as always I look forward to a response.
Have a good week,
1st September 2013