Sending a message

Friday 12th May 2012

SOUP on the table… and then the phone rang. Wishing to interrupt neither lunch nor the conversation I was having with a friend, I paid it no heed.

But would I have ignored a knock at the door, a tap on the window, or a scream from the street?

Certainly not – even if they turned out only to be a Watchtower seller, a stranger enquiring about parking regulations, or a child alarmed merely by a sibling’s tomfoolery.

The telephone is a communication device, not a siren. We are all able to sit through films, attend meetings, sleep and take baths with our mobiles turned off or out of reach.

(Though probably in a minority, I consider any phone call intrusive if it occurs when I am in somebody’s company: it’s no different from having a pleasant chit-chat interrupted by an unpleasant bully.)

The head of Ofsted is a former teacher. He wants to ban pupils from bringing mobile phones into school. I’m inclined to agree with him, being unconvinced by arguments about kids needing to be able to contact parents – secretaries deal with emergencies, and how to get home after netball practice is not the school’s responsibility.

Having said that, teachers should also, I believe, be fully aware of the messages conveyed by their own behaviour.

Twice recently I have been running workshops in schools where teachers at the back have carried on audible conversations while I’ve been addressing the class or, worse still, when youngsters are presenting work in front of the whole group. Manners maketh.

When a teacher myself, I often argued against punishments for the late handing in of homework, largely on the grounds that colleagues were expecting scholars to be more self-disciplined than they were. This led to my once announcing, at the daily briefing…

“Can I please remind everyone that sixth form reports are due in today. Departments missing the deadline will be revealed tomorrow.”

…followed, the next day, by…

“I have two notices: French and Physics.”

…which did not, of course, go down at all well.






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