It seems funny or sad (or both) that the nation pins such hope on the antics of eleven men on a green field. I’m a fan of football, I can even explain the offside rule on a good day and of course, I would like to see England win the World Cup. But still, when faced with baying and jeering of the British press against our national team, I begin to feel the welling of sympathy inside my ribcage. For those of you who don’t know yet, there will be many teaching analogies in these pages because I am a teacher and have been for many years now. I say, those footballers aren’t so different from the pupils in my classroom.
I can teach them, I can train them, I can encourage and praise and cajole and shout – but come exam time, sometimes, even the best of my students wither under the glare of the sports’ hall lights. It’s the same for Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard. Maybe no amount of intervention on my part can change the fact that nerves, pressure, fatigue, fear may dominate at times when what is expected is grit and reserve. My leadership as a teacher is something I can control; the performance of my pupils is not always in my power. It makes me wonder whether we spend too long building a sense of expectation that sometimes can’t be lived up to. Not because they are not capable of living up to the highest of expectations, but because they, like all of us, are human – with human failings and human misgivings. I’m no longer sure whether I am talking about footballers or students.
So we haven’t made it through. In ‘Anne of Green Gables’, Anne is consoled by favourite teacher, Miss Stacey. Miss Stacey has stayed with me since childhood when I read what is now my all time favourite book, because she wisely said: “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it.” I’ve said it many times to my pupils, because it is the most simple of truths. Perhaps the bayers and jeerers, and indeed, our footballers themselves should take note.