The Special Relationship #FierceKindness

Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) | Twitter

There is something indefinably special about primary education when it really sings. We all know it, we all know that thing that truly makes the biggest difference in our classrooms yet it sometimes feels like a dirty word. A word that because it can’t be quantified, or bottled, or packaged, or sold often is dismissed. Yet even though it’s pushed into a dark corner with a blanket over it’s head in our hearts we all know that in the primary classroom it’s the thing that makes the biggest difference.


The greatest thing about primary education is the relationship between a class-teacher and their class. It’s impossible to quantify the power of this relationship yet we all know that it truly makes a difference. The problem is we’re talking about voodoo it’s not something you can teach a person to have with a class. You can help people to be better teachers but you can’t magic a relationship.

Wandering our school I realise how lucky our children are. In every class you can feel that relationship. It’s like a frisson in the air, an electricity. There is tangible aliveness to the classes. The classes are like tribes, their routines and systems are second nature and at the centre of that is the beautiful communication from the teacher, both said and unsaid.

I’m struck by how reward systems are largely unused, equally most of the time our behaviour system while displayed prominently in every room is largely redundant, it’s there but it’s rarely needed. (when I first came to the school it was a lifeline). The class teacher’s disappointment is stronger than any sanction for most children.

Watching and listening in our classes the first thing that strikes is the level of expectation in the rooms. I listened to a year 5 have a discussion with their teacher about a piece of writing, ( I’d read the writing, it was great) and the teacher was absolutely fierce with the critique. I have to say I was worried so I spoke to the child after and her response was fascinating and truly summed up what our classrooms are about, she said:

“I know the work’s good, I know my teacher thinks that this work is good, I’ve tried my best but I want to get better, working with the teacher means I know how I can get better.”

She didn’t want stars or points, she just wanted to improve. That conversation worked in the context of a class where there was explicit trust between the pupil and the teacher. It was truly fierce but sat behind it was a confidence and security in the relationships in that classroom. #FierceKindness

Fact is great relationships in our primary classrooms are the thing that is not only a fundamental part of why primary education is special, but they can also move mountains. Sat at the core of them is security, trust, honesty and that sense of tribe.

There is craft and wild magic in the best primary classrooms you can feel it. I’m not sure however that we can ever truly capture it, bottle and sell it. That doesn’t mean however that we shouldn’t value it.

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