“A myriad of tiny details”

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I received an email from a colleague very early this morning that mentioned the “myriad of tiny details” his role was requiring him to consider.  The phrase stayed with me all day, in part because my colleague is thoroughly dedicated, and I know exactly how hard he will be working to get each of those myriad details just right, both for present needs and also so that there is a coherent system in place going forwards.  The other reason that the phrase stuck in my mind was because in the twenty minutes before I read his email my own mind had been involuntarily reminding itself of a series of moments – a myriad of tiny details, if you like –  from the first two weeks back at school.

It was unusual and uncontrollable.  The adrenaline of a good start to the new term led to memories hastily racing through my fresh morning mind.  These are just a few of them that I can still remember recalling earlier this morning:

  • A Geography teacher who was giving the most perceptive advice and praise to her hockey team throughout a match.

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  • A Head of Year at a Parents’ Presentation Evening who already knew so many families in his year group really well from having supported and/or taught their children in previous years.  There were 200 sets of parents.
  • Three teachers each refereeing a rugby match last Saturday, every one of whom combined their roles as referee with a commentary of advice and encouragement to boys from both teams. Thoroughly professional and impressive, every one of them.
  • One of those rugby coaches responding calmly and helpfully to a nasty injury that required a hospital trip, and who later that night telephoned three families to check on the condition and progress of their injured sons.
  • A couple of helpful emails sent in the small hours by colleagues who woke early or who couldn’t get to sleep until they had something good in place ahead of the coming day.
  • Two of our Year 10 students giving me stick in the Refectory queue: “It was only that Louis Suarez why Liverpool had a good season, sir. If you lose against Norwich, Rodgers is out.”
  • Our coach drivers reacting to problems after a breakdown, and gridlock, and doing whatever was required to get our students in to school or safely back home.
  • The relieved and very happy reaction of a student who had thought he might have to leave us, but whose parents had found a way for him to stay.
  • Our school nurse, who is contracted to 4pm, staying until 6:30 two nights this week because there were students who she felt needed help.
  • A video that the Outdoor Learning team had shown of the L6th devising their own leadership courses, persevering when it got tough, and all pulling together to come out the other side. “Putting more jam in their doughnut”, as the course leader tells everybody.  Erm, yes, quite.  He is brilliant.
  • A few different support staff colleagues who just get it done, whatever it is, instantly and without it being a problem, and who then send me a smiley face email or give me a simple, affirmative “Yep!”.
  • The programme of non-examined classes that teachers here have put together for our L6th, voluntarily, just to enrich and broaden their studies beyond their A level subjects. I defy anybody to read the list of 32 courses that are on offer, and not to then pick the courses that they would like to take.  ‘The Gender Games’ was at the top of my own wish list.
  • The Head of Year (a different one) who took students new to our school out for dinner before the start of term, and who also organised lunch for them all and for a number of colleagues two weeks in, just to help them all settle here, feel welcomed, and to give us teachers a more personal sense of how they’re each getting on.
  • The two young teachers in the French department who are always still in at six each night, planning lessons, going over pastoral issues, writing house assemblies, and getting excited about the weekend debating trip. They both absolutely get it.

In and of itself, the items on this list might not appear spectacular.  Dedicated and professional, but not necessarily spectacular.  And that was the point when they came to my mind.  It’s the cumulative effects of this myriad of tiny details that combine to make a first-rate school and a learning community that we are all proud of.  The small things can make a big difference to the atmosphere around a school, and if everybody gets the little things right then it makes the educational journey a richer, more productive experience for all.

I have recently been appointed to a new role at my school.  Alongside @parker_neal, I am the co Interim Head of @TheGSAL until next April, and this is a responsibility that we each take extremely seriously.  I am not a man who gives praise cheaply; I just can’t say it if I don’t mean it.  But I have found myself wanting to gush and effuse in recent days.  And I list this morning’s memories above for no reason other than they overwhelmed me on waking, including more of them than I can remember now tonight because they all turned up mob-handed first thing.  I reckon it was nothing more complicated than an overwhelming sense of pride in my school.  In the students, who have an attitude and approach that best helps everyone to learn, and in the teachers and support staff who lead very busy lives in term time, working extremely hard for our children.  A myriad of tiny details – that’s the wonder of school.

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