One of the interesting things about the wonderful world of education is that these days with all the talk of 'hostile takeovers' and 'competitive provisioning' it is increasingly becoming an aggressively competitive sector.
Not that it wasn't competitive before of course. When I was a schoolboy back in the dark ages there were always 'good' schools that some parents clamoured to send their children to and there were the schools to be avoided. Then, as now, some parents chose to take their children to the 'good' and leave the local school to become a receptacle for the low-attainment families - yes, there have always been 'sink' schools too!
The thing was in those days it was always done in a more 'off the radar' manner - we knew it was happening but we somehow never chose to notice, especially if our kids were in the better schools (and if they weren't the parents perhaps didn't care or had them at the school because of dogma and ideology!).
A few weeks ago I happened to visit one of the new academies and had the disconcerting experience whereby the person we'd come to visit managed to:
i. Avoid any eye-contact with everyone else in the room (so it wasn't just because my ugly mug scared them!),
ii. Take a couple of calls and engage in conversation with them (mind you, from the conversation it appeared the person on the other might not have had the grades they needed to send them to university. The, 'If you get offered a place, call me!' seemed to underline this impression!),
iii. Misunderstand what was being asked (but they weren't really communicating, they were just in the same room as us).
I left feeling that I'd managed to completely waste their time and ours - Perhaps they were just having a bad day (I thought trying to be charitable)!
Anyway, I had the opportunity to revisit this person to inform them that one of their charges was transferring and to say goodbye to them and their institution (politeness personified or what - although there was the question of a signature too!). Entering the room our heroic head of something or other greeted the person I was with, 'Hello Tom, what's this I hear about you leaving?'
What an excellent gambit, engage the person and, having been in their company for a year, use their first name to win a point and create a warm feeling. This, ladies and gentlemen is an example of Transactional Analysis for indeed 'a stroke is a unit of recognition and stimulation' (see I did listen to the lectures!!!) and here we have such a thing most excellently enacted. Well almost because there are both positive and negative strokes, the former being empowering and joyful and the latter being debilitating and painful.
Sadly for our hapless hero the focus of their communication was not a 'Tom' at all and therefore by their very (still eye contact-less) encounter had caused a sense of impotent and uncared for ill-being. What made it worse was perhaps the ignoring of the faux pas and this was the moment when the cherry was firmly affixed to the cake (which had by them been wonderfully baked and iced)! Mind you, the cake was then wrapped and presented to [not Tom] as he was told that transferring to a different school was a mistake for a number of reasons, namely:
i. it was a different school (yes - that was the idea behind them leaving!)
ii. they'd never worked at a better school than the one being left (is that reflection of the school, the teacher or perhaps both?)
iii. it was further away from the school they were leaving (distance is sometimes a great thing)
Now contrast that with the response the same person got at the target school:
Having arrived for the first time to register the head of school, who was merely passing by, stopped and acknowledged them by name (using the words, 'I assume you're [not Tom]!') and engaged them with eye contact and a smile.
Since this is a parable for Church I have to ask you:
If you were [not Tom] which school would you choose?
If we changed school for church would anyone notice?
Buried a member of a local church recently and they hadn't been visited by their Vicar (even though the family had requested one) - not even once during the time they'd been in hospital or a nursing home (and this was a significant period).
Eye contact - can we look people in they eyes (do we?)
Names - do we know the names of those who come to our churches?
Do we know what's going on in the lives of those around us so we can be engaged, helping and praying?