I have been a teacher for 27 years, a Headteacher for 13 years and, at the age of 51, this much I know about pointlessness.
Blue is the colour. Just over a year ago our premises manager Jeff refurbished my tatty office. I left the entire project to him. I returned from the half-term holiday to find my office redecorated in Manchester City colours – the carpet, chairs, signature wall and the blinds all in light blue with a sign on my door declaring Etihad Airways as the proud sponsors of the refurbishment. My sole contribution to the décor was a set of red coasters for the new table.

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Excellence is not an act but a habit. Will Durant’s oft mis-attributed aphorism can only be correct if those habitual acts are worthwhile practice. The new table Jeff bought for the office refurb is made of fake wood; it is not just heat-proof, but thoroughly fire-proof. One would need a flame-thrower to make a heat mark on its surface. So why, for the last fifteen months, have we used the red coasters to protect the table top when we have a hot drink at meetings? We use the coasters because we have always used coasters, unquestioningly. A wholly pointless habit, but one we cannot break. And a metaphor, perhaps, for too many practices at our school.

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Just Wiliam. Dylan named Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch as his recommended holiday reading in 2015’s last edition of the TES. Switch is a fine account of how to break habits. When I get back to work on Monday, I will be consigning our literal and metaphoric red coasters to the waste bin. Why don’t you?

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This post has 5 Comments

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  1. We use coasters to prevent those messy rings that un-coastered cups tend to leave and give such a bad impression if left. I suppose you could just wipe the table, or ask Jeff to, after the meetings. But then, wouldn’t questions be asked about use of time? And where would you store the slightly damp cloth that makes the best job of wiping rings off fake wood incombustible tables? Would reading Switch help me to break the habit of preventing mess when possible?

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