Okay – well, here is a quotation…
“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.
That particular quote is quite possibly well known to you: it has certainly been around for a long time, and has been attributed to pretty much every quotable grandee going. And it is most commonly quoted in relation to education.
Why? Because despite being a bit of a cliché, and despite being thrown around like proverbial confetti, it remains essentially true The lazy blogger, just like the last minute assembly writer, will always begin with a quote.
of the most precious responsibility placed upon us as teachers – to know and to care about our students. After all, if we don’t care about young people, then why would be become teachers in the first place?
Teachers teach – of course – and I am not devaluing subject-knowledge and pedagogy. During my career I have seen teaching become more professionalised, more scientific and more accountable. Truthfully, I believe that all of these are excellent things. Teaching is an art, but it is also a craft; and one which can be learned and developed and refined. Knowing what is most effective or efficient in explaining and embedding knowledge matters enormously. Reflecting on what we do in the classroom, and seeking to do it better is all part of the job. But taking an active interest in the lives of the pupils so that we can help them navigate the pressures under which they are placed, not least by the education system itself, is equally – even more – important.
At The Grammar School at Leeds we have spent much time over the past few years thinking deeply about our pupils’ wellbeing, and how we can better help them navigate their journey. We have always known who a pupil of ours can turn to when they are in need… but do they? And would they? As a result of these musings, we have reorganised our pastoral structures to place greater emphasis upon, and to give greater time and guidance to, our form tutors – always in my view the key person in looking after the daily needs of the pupils. Alongside this we have introduced counselling services, something many schools have done in the last decade, but which was virtually unheard of before that time. We have also built a home for our ‘student support’ department, a one-stop location where pupils can go to see a nurse, a counsellor, a senior member of the pastoral team, or just to take some quiet time out. More recently we have created an equality and diversity group and an intranet page where our children can seek further information on a range of topics without having to rely on the often dubious results that would otherwise come out of an unguided Google search. Consistently we have tried to impress upon our young people that they should not feel hindered in who they can speak with, and what they can raise.
The result of all of this has been a steady stream of young people becoming known to us who might have passed unnoticed before. Equally importantly, the result has been and will (I hope) continue to be that any GSAL boy or girl will realise that they are supported, known and valued, regardless of what life throws at them during their school years.
It is easy in the age of league tables, inspections, compliance regulations and ever-increasing accountability to forget about the child in front of you. But the best teachers always understand that the first priority of any school is to care, and only if this foundation is secure can you then begin truly to teach.
Vice Principal & Head of Senior School
The Grammar School at Leeds