Thursday, 21 November 2013

In (occasionally) keeping with tradition

I’m a bit of a contradiction when it comes to tradition.  I am an absolute stickler for observing some traditions, and my Christmas Eve is rife with them.  Equally, there are some that I think are ripe for the breaking.  Ultimately, traditions largely fall into three categories: some you have to keep; some you feel duty bound to challenge, and that, frankly, you can do without.

As I child I stuck unfailingly to the rules.  I was (I know you will find this difficult to believe) never one to rock the boat, always a good guy.  I had to become an adult to know how to push boundaries.  It was during my first years of teaching that I began to ask “Why do we do it that way?”  You have to remember that we would still be stuck with laws that were, essentially traditions, had we not challenged the sense behind them.  Corporal punishment for children, anyone?

I left my first job for a number of reasons, one of which was that I refused to go along with certain things that my colleagues insisted upon because they’d “always done it that way”.  I left another job because people still wanted things done the way they had been in the 1860s – no, really, I’m not joking.  When one of the governors asked me at the end of a long and embattled Full Governing Body when I intended to sweep the car park (she stopped short of calling me “Sonny” as she peered at me over the top of her spectacles), I silently admitted that my time there was at an end. 

When I arrived at Badock’s, there were a few things I had to question repeatedly, because although people claimed that they were “for the good of the children”, it became quickly apparent (at least to me) that they were in fact “for the gratification of the adults”. 

Sadly, there were some traditions, or habits, that had been at Badock’s long before my arrival but had to go.  Theft, a daily occurrence once upon a time, is no longer a daily issue, but has reared its ugly head this year, with children’s coats going missing and never returning.  As tough as times get, surely this is a tradition no-one wants to see return.  Equally, aggressive attitudes towards staff – a daily occurrence on my arrival - has mostly, mostly disappeared.  It should disappear completely.  And soon.  The sub-culture (a part of tradition) of teachers being punch bags has gone – it left with the cane, school milk and the ink well, and, just like those artefacts, should be consigned to a museum specialising in exhibits from a golden era that never really happened.

You see, we ought to be extremely wary of trusting ideas, notions or procedures we are told are the right way to do things when we have an inkling that they’re wrong.  Adults are, by-and-large, not vey good at this.  Children on the other hand, seem to have this skill in spades.   

Although I enjoy pushing boundaries and exploring new dimensions, there are some traditions that must, must remain.  These are the few, the very few, that I will pass on to my own children and hope they pass onto theirs ad infinitum.  They are things such as:

·         -  You should always know the name of all the Dr Whos, in order;
·          - You should always be able to recite the 1982 Villa side who won the European cup in Rotterdam (including both goalies);
·          - You should know the perfect recipes for yorkshire puddings.

Furthermore, there are some traditions that simply help you to take your place in the human family.  Participating in Children in Need, Red Nose Day, Sport Relief, whatever it may be, should be a tradition that remains.  Offering support, whether you donate a fortune or simply adorn your proboscis with an irritating piece of recycled rubber, should be more than a tradition; it should be an obligation – an act where it feels more wrong to not take part.  I stress again, it matters not that you offer a shiny penny or a thousand pounds – it matters that you care enough.

Above all, one tradition that should remain unchallenged is the minute’s silence.  Every year, on a cold Sunday morning, I take my place amongst hundreds in our village who make the slow trudge up the (closed) High Street to the memorial park in order to listen to the Service of Remembrance.  The number of veterans slims each passing year, but the crowd never seems to decrease – far from it; for not the first year, they ran out of service books.  Although I had had to semi-battle my son to go, he needed no instruction as to how to behave when there.  This silent code, this feeling, this tradition speaks volumes for itself.  The following day, in our own remembrance assembly, you could have heard a stealth pin drop into a bed of cotton wool during our own silence, and at no point did I feel as if I needed to impress on our children the importance, the symbolism, or the (forgive me again) tradition. 

Of course, there is a fourth option: sometimes you simply have to start a tradition.  Who started singing “Happy Birthday”?  Who was the first person ever to say “Please”?  Someone, somewhere in the mists of time had to come up with the idea of a song at 12.00 midnight each December 31st.  Why not start a tradition of your own.  “Flowers on a Friday” was one a former colleague of mine started in his house.  They smile a lot, his family. 

As long as I’m at Badock’s, some traditions will be welcomed, embraced and encouraged.  Some fads and phases will be … left in the dust of the past.  One tradition we should display with pride is our love of learning.  If we’re not learning, what are we here for?  Check out the nursery’s blog, and watch a group of three and four year olds as they, quite literally, reinvent the wheel.

Is it tradition, or is it breathtakingly new?  Or is it simply wonderful?

From me, but not from our amazing children, who both seek and challenge tradition on a secondly-basis, that is all.