The Power Of Turning Up

Teachers will always have a whole bunch of stuff to do. Although work-life balance is clearly important, when you are at school you are expected to serve.

But what about ‘after-hours’. Do you make your exit as quickly as you can and drive by parents and children walking home? Certainly one day a week you should definitely leave ‘on time’.

You can’t be everywhere but it’s important to also show your support for your school and especially the children in your class. If there is a sports fixture after-school and you’re not the coach turn up for 10 minutes and watch. Children will love seeing ‘their’ teacher who has come along to support them. They don’t forget that you made the effort to come and see them.

Turning up is what teachers have to do and it’s something Sir John Jones points out in The Magic-Weaving Business. He makes some suggestions:

  • Turn up to school sports/shows – remember two things they did well
  • Let them know you are going just to see them
  • Sign up for school holidays/trips
  • Have lunch with them in their dining room and vary the table/group

To me this is cracking advice and its what magic-weavers do because they put relationships first. Most teachers will make the effort to be there and do as much as they can but some don’t. Some draw the line at turning up because they are “really busy” or have clearly defined wellbeing boundaries. I completely ‘get’ that especially when it comes to childcare demands, pressures at home and feeling overwhelmed by workload.

But that’s fine to a point. Children need to know that their teachers care and that means involving ourselves in their lives beyond regular hours.

Turning up allows you to see children in different contexts and how their behaviour is often remarkably different too. You learn a lot by watching as a fly on the wall and you can then draw on this information back in class.

So, yes do make the effort to turn up at performances, plays and sports. Do make the effort to share a lunchtime with children. It is in these moments that we make valuable connections with children and also their parents because they see that you care. As Sir John Jones says, “I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care.”

Teachers have to show an interest in the lives of their class because it pays to do it. Turning up is what all great teachers do. It pays because children are more invested in you and their learning. If being there at an event or match makes you more approachable then win win because children will see you as being on their side and feel more at ease approaching you for help in class and around school.

This is a bit like high-vis heads who make it their business to be seen in and around school because they know that it builds connections and relationships. Sitting in an office doesn’t.

Getting to know children in contexts beyond the egg-crate of a classroom means you see them in less formal contexts and with different expectations. If they see you as being there and being their champion then when they need your help things are far easier.

Some colleagues and I used to attend in pairs and small groups – this has an even bigger impact, especially for a football or hockey match. It’s also a great way to facilitate positive interactions between parents although be extra-careful that bumping into parents doesn’t turn into an impromptu parents’ evening!

Going further, children love the opportunities to compete with the staff. Why not organise a ‘friendly’ and play a ‘teachers vs children’ netball match. They absolutely love this!

At the end of the day, turning up is one of the most powerful things we can do as teachers as it is an effective way to build trusting relationships, improve behaviour and it contributes to whole school happiness. The best part of turning up is when a child says “thank you” for coming.

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