My primary school headmaster knew when to say nothing...
Transcript of this video:
I was nine years old in the wooden hut that served as a classroom for Mrs. McSharry at Thorley Hill Primary School.
I was having a proper paddy, a real meltdown. For some reason, which I’ve long forgotten, I was absolutely furious. And for once, Mrs. McSharry, who ran a tight ship or at least a tight hut, wasn’t able to cope.
And so she sent me to the headmaster which I think she thought of as the ultimate sanction, although because I always got on rather well with Mr. Taylor, I’m not sure it counted as such for me.
I went straight to his study propelled by my own sense of indignation and he asked me in and asked me why I was there.
I said, I’d been sent there by Mrs. McSharry. And he asked me why I had melted down in this way. And I think what then followed was a long litany of complaints, starting with the immediate provocation but ending with everything that was wrong with my life – ending with the ultimate statement of outrage which was I was incandescent that my parents had given me the middle name, Kenneth which was self-evidently an outrage.
I remember Mr. Taylor’s response. He didn’t attempt to argue with me nor did he try to console me. He just looked at me reflectively as if what I had said was not an unreasonable thing to say.
And he paused and he said, oh are you ready to go back to Mrs. McSharry’s classroom now? Which I was. And so I did.
I think I remembered that moment as rather special because I think it’s easy to forget sometimes when someone is sharing something in a very upset way or in a very angry way, or shared a meaningful story we feel we might need to acknowledge it out loud, to argue with it, to sympathise with it.
And all of those things are often valid responses. But sometimes the best thing is just to be really present.