My year tens have had their final lesson of the year. It consisted of the final few speeches from the class. One of my girls stood up and despite obvious nerves (which she conquered pretty quickly) delivered a riveting speech on tolerance and the monstrous (her word not mine) behaviour of racists who gain followers by pretending to be reasonable and patriotic. Her speech was technically brilliant. Any persuasive technique you could have wanted was there. Her passion and clear understanding of both her subject matter and the what I now call (and so do the kids) the 'Alan Shore technique' was evident in every line and every movement. She was wonderful.
And I wasn't the only one who thought so. The class listened in total silence, completely enthralled by her. When I asked for comments at the end, one of the students, who had mislaid her GCSE speaking and listening criteria said it was an A*. I asked her how she could be so sure if she didn't have the criteria in front of her and she said, "Everyone listened. You could have heard a pin drop. She used all the Alan Shore techniques, but more than that, we were all completely grabbed by what she said, and if that isn't total engagement of audience, I don't know what is."
I had to agree. She was correct. Of course she was.
But the thing was, it wasn't the fact that the student's speech was clearly an A* grade, it was the fact that the other students knew it and were happy for it to be an A*.
There was no jealousy or resentment, just genuine pleasure at the quality of work produced by one of their colleagues. They were, as a whole class, delighted by the work each and every one of them had produced.
During this entire exercise, they were supportive and generous with their praise and help. Not once did I sense envy at a good speech, or malicious glee at a less successful student's work.
When I tried to explain to a colleague that the first ten minutes of all my lessons are spent creating and developing an atmosphere where students feel relaxed, cooperative and part of a team, this is exactly what I was referring to. There is a feeling of friendship in the class. A feeling of everyone being in it together. It takes a while to create this, and sometimes it doesn't work. But it was nice to see in that last lesson, that in this class, it had.