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Six Degrees of Separation? Try two….

Friday, February 22, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation? Try two….

All people (and everything else in the world) are only six steps away from each other and a chain can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps, or so the saying goes.

It is also said, according to a well-known drinking game, that Kevin Bacon can be linked to any other actor within a similar number of steps...

However, when the Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy first proposed the ‘6 Degrees of Separation’ idea in the late 20s, he clearly hadn’t taken into account one important section of society: teachers.

For if he had, the popular theory might have become known as 'Two Degrees of Separation'.

Only this morning, an old friend asked me if I recognised the name, 'John Smith' (some names have been changed for legal purposes). Her only reason for asking? He’s a teacher and so am I. And, funnily enough, I do know him.

When walking in the supermarket, you may have noticed those strange, haunted souls with wide eyes who seem to leap behind the fruit and veg stands as if trying to avoid a bullet. They are most likely teachers trying to hide from someone they know and would rather avoid.

At dinner parties, when the couple opposite you find out that you're a teacher, the interrogation begins: "Are you the Mr Parker that worked at Smallwoods School? Do you know the Smiths? How about the Wests?" It only takes a matter of seconds before you grudgingly admit that yes, you do know them, you taught their daughter A-Level chemistry.

It’s even worse when teachers get together. A whole day could be spent discussing with colleagues, the teachers we have loved and lost. Who worked with whom and at which school, often wiles away a few hours.

Now, why is it such a small world when it comes to teachers or Kevin Bacon for that matter?

Well, Kevin Bacon has made a lot of films and worked with a lot of actors.

But teachers?

Obviously, we stand out to children and parents. If you teach a class of 30 children for 5 years that means you have come into contact with 150 children or 300 parents. So, there are at least 450 people who could potentially spot you hiding behind the fruit and veg in Asda.

However, from a teacher’s perspective, we need effective networks. They are the lifeblood of a self-improving school system - a system that's most effective when using coaches and mentors to improve practice. Positive relationships often form the basis of teacher’s overall effectiveness. Relationships with pupils, parents, colleagues and, dare I say, even inspectors?

Who is collaborative? Who can we learn from? Who is great to plan with and who’s not?

As a profession, we value teamwork, reflection and the chance to share best practice.

So two degrees of separation suits me just fine. Whenever I need help or advice, I know I can turn to a supportive voice who understands, maybe just a little bit, what I need.

I wonder if Kevin Bacon feels the same?

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