“The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook.” William James

This quotation makes me chuckle for many different reasons and also makes me think about the constant battle that rages about marking students’ work and giving them feedback. William James was an American Psychologist and Philosopher in the 2nd half of the 19th Century-and is reportedly the 1st person to teach psychology in the States.

We all know people who want to know everything, be involved in everything, manage everything, know everything about everyone when, in reality, most of it has nothing to do with them and should not be concerning them. In some circumstances, it can be quite a charming characteristic and in others in can be incredibly irritating. I am sure we have all had the misfortune to come across someone who tries to micro-manage everything and everyone; all aspects. Boy can it be draining! Micro-managers do not create teams, do not trust people, do not give people confidence in anything and ultimately may well drive themselves a little potty. They end up micro-managing everything and managing nothing.

Knowing what behaviours to overlook is an important aspect of the job for teachers. Sure, there are some things which are unacceptable, some that are irritating, some designed to annoy and knowing which to challenge and which to ignore is as much about psychology as it is about classroom management. We are very fortunate here at Padworth, that we rarely have to sanction our students because of their behaviour. They are very respectful of the staff, of each other and of individuals’ rights to learn and to be themselves. This is not the case in all schools, and it is something that we sometimes take for granted, especially when we do have a case of bad behaviour.

From a student’s perspective, especially as we head into exam season, this is not necessarily a quotation that sits easily. Teachers will be saying that they need to know all of their topics inside out, remember how to structure an essay or answer a 15 marker, how many verbs to get into the final writing passage etc… Sure. It is important, but it is also important to be wise when revising. Focus on key areas, key words, key ideas; things that will have the maximum impact. When running out of time in an exam, forget the multiple-choice questions and head for the long writing which carries the most marks…Overlook little details and focus on the bigger picture.

Easier said than done.

Have a great weekend wherever you are and don’t forget to pop in and see us if you are in the area

Best Wishes

Chris Randell