At this time of year, it is easy to get caught up with the speed and fury of Christmas shopping and even the strongest of us can fall victim to the pressures of what should be a time of reflection focussing on generosity of spirit. I have been talking to the children about this being a time of giving and that giving often comes in the form of giving your time, affection and energy – its not all about material goods. I told this to our Steel Band who played in front of Tesco’s on Tuesday to raise money for The Christie hospital. I told it to the Year 6 boy who gave his football to younger children so that they could play while he ate his lunch. Last Thursday, we interviewed for some SEN mentors. We found three excellent people who have all agreed to join us. Later that day, I reflected on how we had recruited our new members of staff. The most gratifying aspect of the process was the responses and manner of our pupils who took part in it.
We asked pupils to talk with the candidates and to come up with any questions they thought would provide an insight into how well candidates would fit into school and how good they would be with children who had particular needs. Each candidate would move around the room talking to each child for approximately five minutes; each candidate would get to meet each child. This was only one part of the interview process but it turned out to be a very telling part. The children rose to the challenge. We thought we would have to provide lots of support and help with forming the questions – we didn’t have to do that. We thought that we would have to coax children into those initial social skills, tell them how to meet and greet – we didn’t have to do that. We thought that we may have to intervene if the conversation between pupil and candidate slowed – we didn’t have to do that. We thought that perhaps we would have to help children with their analysis afterwards – we didn’t have to do that.
In fact, we didn’t have to do anything. The children, who are in Year 5 and 6, were completely polite and insightful. They asked questions about the person and about their experience. Idris waited until each candidate sat down and then made eye contact, held out his hand and said “Hello, I’m Idris, who are you?” Hannah asked candidates about their hobbies and Ikra gave them scenarios about how they would cope in specific situations. Hazik asked them why they wanted to come to our school and partnered up with Tyreece who introduced the two of them and kept notes. Demi andHachim said very little but listened well and then asked some killer follow up questions. Tammy and Sachaformed another terrific partnership getting the candidates to relax and laugh.
Later, when we asked for their views, the children were honest and direct. The candidates commented on how mature and hard hitting some of the questions were from the children. The children were also generous and kind towards all the candidates and gave reasons for their opinions. I was impressed by their candour and maturity. I was impressed by the fact that despite nerves from some of them, they were confident and appropriate. There was never a hint of precociousness. And it is this confidence, so secure and embedded in each child, thatwill warm my heart during the cold days of winter! We know that the ability to regulate anxiety and to interact socially in an age appropriate manner, is a big predictor of future academic and social success.
In a busy week, it was a wonderful gift to sit back and watch our children manage themselves and complete the task in hand with such precision and charm. It lasted for no more than half an hour but it has stayed with me for a long time. I felt at the time and still feel very proud of them. Perhaps that is what we should all do more often: sit back, watch and appreciate what is around us. After all, this confidence didn’t just happen over night – it has been honed and developed over time.
So, on Saturday, at our Shine Project, when a child asked me if I got presents at Christmas, I replied, ‘Yes, I do. In fact I had one present early this year’.