Sunday 8 May 2016

Attention Must Be Paid

I am increasingly interested in the effect of attention. It is, of course, one of the qualities (and possibly one of the most important components) of a Thinking Environment, according to Nancy Kline (see here for my various reflections of Nancy's work).

But at present, it is another effect of attention that has caught my... attention.

For some time now, I have been doing some voluntary work, supporting a young lad who is perceived to be at risk of dropping out of, or at least completely disengaging from, formal education.

I visit him every week, and sit and chat; often while he is entertaining himself playing a video game, and so on.  The idea, I think, is that over time, we will build sufficient rapport that I may be able to exert some gentle influence over him, with regard to his studies...

But so far, I have concentrated on getting to know him, finding things to bring along that he will find interesting or entertaining (anything from magic tricks to my air rifle...) and so on. I have deliberately not weighed in on the subject of his school work (or even his school attendance, which is patchy), as I have judged it too soon.

So I was surprised to hear that at a case conference about his situation, the school was reporting a marked improvement in his attitude, and were attributing that to my visits.

I replied (to the organisation that organises this voluntary work, who were at the case conference) that it couldn't be anything to do with me, as we had not discussed such issues yet. But they were of the opposite view.  They said that in their experience there was frequently a marked improvement in attitude and behaviour, once a young person started to receive regular and reliable attention from an adult, regardless of what, if anything, was discussed.

All of which reminded me of this quotation from Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

Attention must be paid: not a bad aphorism to remind ourselves of on a regular basis...


  1. Brilliant! Beautiful writing and the story makes such a pertinent point.