Some days it's easy to get along. I followed two smaller learners as they trotted along the green upstairs corridor between blocks 5 and 4. 'How do you know we'll get to Drama this way?' 'I'm following my gut'. ‘OK then.’
We entertained a journalist on the day of writing. She wanted to hear from the youth so we plucked a few out and let them loose on her: 'Why do you like it here?' 'People help you. They hold your hand through stuff'. Then they took pains to explain that the handholding was of the metaphorical supportive type, that it wasn't babyish or a soft option, but a way of enabling them to learn really hard stuff in a kind and supportive atmosphere.
I wandered out and Crocus was lying in wait for me again. She's taken against her options and appears to want to try them all out to find a set that suits. She's come to me because her Head of Year's told her that the trial period's over and she needs to love the ones she's got. She wanted to put her case before another judge, but really once it gets to me there's nowhere else to go, and I'd said no before half-term. There are things to battle for in life, and changing options for the third time isn't one of them. I threatened to blow time on my Thunderer if she lurked around me again on the matter.
After that I nearly tripped over some sixth form who were waiting tidily on the floor. I put it to them that, despite the hi-vis attributes of red tights, their proximity to the door constituted a trip hazard. They happily entertained themselves shuffling along until they were fully visible. Another visitor remarked: it's very calm here.
Boundaries, gut feeling, calm and a bit of support and kindness go a long way in a human institution. Children push their luck because they're full of hope that the world will bend itself to their personal needs. We can love their importuning while teaching them that persistence and discipline really requires them to get stuck in, that a best fit might be the best fit and that if something's hard, well, perhaps it'll get easier. Good habits are the basis of the good life and perhaps, a better world.
Which is why the news from Westminster is so grim this week. Not because it’s a surprise that things go wrong but because such wrongs have lasted into the modern world. When I was growing up the owner of the ancestral whistle was pretty clear that gender relations were apt to go awry and that women should have their wits about them. Over years as a Head I've packed brilliant and lucky young women off to be interns in MPs' offices and have never heard a word against the members for whom they worked, but plenty about unreconstructed attitudes in the febrile air of the crumbling Palace. Who says that the prize of survival in a political party is so great that a young person has to allow frankly stomach-turning, outrageous, not to mention illegal, assaults upon her dignity and person? We’re not talking about louche and left-over Edwardians who don’t know any better, but men of my own generation who very certainly do.
Where's the common-sense politeness, respect and good behaviour? Where's the kindness and support. Where's the example to the young, for goodness' sake? For shame.
Which brings me back to the young chaps in the corridor helping each other through the day, Crocus wanting to shape her own destiny, and the year 11 physicists I saw on Thursday morning. They were all smiles and kindness to each other and their teacher. They smiled when they found out they didn't have to learn THIS equation. They smiled when they commented on each other's graphs and they chuckled quietly in appreciation of Sir's liquid pressure demo with three holes in a tube. It could not have been more cordial, pleasant and respectful.
Some of the rich and powerful could learn from this, as they're finding out. Who'd have thought the ship of state would be so storm-toss'd by these young people? Bring it on, ladies. Acme Thunderers all round. Blow those whistles until we find a better way to be.