Thursday, 27 August 2015


I received an email this week from a student I taught a while back. She wanted me to know that she had been given an award for outstanding work from the college she is at and that the work she had produced had been inspired by a topic she had studied in my class while she was doing her A levels. She attached some samples of her work and I really did feel very proud of her- it is a funny thing but when a student achieves something you do feel a pride that is almost akin to seeing offspring succeed- perhaps because, though the achievement is wholly and rightly theirs, you feel you may have contributed to it even if only to some small extent. I was also very touched that this student had taken the time  to thank me and let me know how she was doing. It came at just the right time as, despite a really excellent set of results both from our whole college and our individual department, it is still easy to feel a bit weary at this time of year at the thought of a lot of intense work ahead.

We often forget the power of praise or  overlook the fact that there are people in our lives who might benefit enormously from encouragement.The bible says we build each other up through encouragement and it is true that praise can have the power to inspire us to go on and to continue to do as well or better than before. Positive feedback can help us to be the best we can be as well as to simply make us happy. Unfortunately sometimes those we could have the most positive impact upon through our kind words are often those whom we are most prepared to criticise or simply take for granted- such as our parents or our spouse. I am convinced we all have guilty moments on this score ( I know I do) and if we could just be more considerate we would all be happier! It is not always true either that Christians are any better at building each other up. I've heard plenty of criticism and carping in church, for example cliques or constant sniping at the vicar.
 This week I was encouraged and it made me resolve to try to say something kind and positive to someone every day. Maybe we should all give it a try.


  1. A point I made in my doctoral thesis is how many charities receive public recognition because they are able to publicise the work they do. Indeed many spend a large proportion of their income in image generation. Therefore they can appear to have a much greater social impact and scope than they do in reality. A good example is the NSPCC – it spends around £97million a year on projects protecting children. However local government spends almost £9 BILLION on child protection. It is tempting when seeing adverts on TV for the NSPCC to think it is coequal with the state in the protection of children, when by cost alone, it does about 1% of the work that local government social workers do in protecting children. Yet we never hear of this. The NSPCC spends 18.3% of its income (£125 million total income - £23 million is spent on advertising) on image production (i.e. generating funds). Can you imagine the public outcry if 18.3% of council tax was spent on advertising the work of social services or education services in a borough!

    In my thesis I argue that at least part of the reason why we have such a glowing image of voluntary and charitable organisations is down to advertising. These organisations reap the rewards of the ‘halo effect’ even though Joe Public rarely has hands on experience of the work or organisation of these agencies. Alas, public services rarely get the recognition for the good work they do. At any one time there are around 40,000 children on the child protection register – every five or so years a child dies on the child protection register and social workers are public enemy number one (even though, in the case of Baby P – and other tragedies – the failure is usually a combination of failure on the part of police, medical services, schools and social services – but it is social workers who take the blame). Week in week out I often protect an adult from self-neglect or provide support to person in need – and rarely do I get a thanks or kiss my arse from Joe Public. Thankfully I do regularly receive letters and cards of thanks – but the public image of social care is not very positive.

    I mention this because I think we in the caring professions and in education don’t get the public recognition or encouragement we deserve. In many ways I think public services best fulfil Biblical ideals of morality - See: Exodus 22:22 , Deut 10:18, 14:29, 24:17, 24:19 etc., Isaiah 1:17, 1:23, 10:2, Jeremiah 22:3, Ezekiel 22:7, Zechariah7:10, Malachi 3:5 – we protect the vulnerable – certainly more than happened when the churches were full and the Bible well known! Moreover we do this in a way that fulfils Jesus words on the topic of service – Matt 6:1 – we neither seek nor get public recognition for the work that we do. You only have to do an internet search for Christian organisations and you’ll find web-pages ramming their do-gooding down your throat. Smiling Christians doling out their Christian goodness (although in the case of many faith-based organisations it is actually the taxpayer who foots the majority of the bill and the hands on, shitty work, is often done by people of any and no faith – Christians tend to be found in the board room or senior management).

    I just think our public services would be so much better if people did give the odd word of encouragement! People treat public servants like sh*t sometimes.

    A few months ago I was visiting a client in a nursing home in Harrow and had forgotten to bring a map or the postcode for my phone app. So I was lost. I called in at the local library and a member of staff actually photocopied me the page of the A-Z I needed. I emailed his manager to thank him once back the office. In fact if I receive good service, I try and do this as often as possible. A little encouragement, as you say, goes a long way.


  2. I guess we are reasonably well off in teaching, I even get presents at the end of term! As you say, social workers and a lot of public servants just get treated like shit.