so human resources then

I once heard an independent educational consultant say that it was not a good idea to say ‘please’ when you are giving instructions to a class. It apparently weakens you in their eyes.

Does it? Briefly do an empathic transfer into the mind of someone sitting in that class. You got dressed in a cold damp room again that morning, having been kept awake most of the night by dripping on the ceiling from the persistently leaky roof. Your mum’s hangover has prevented her from getting up again, so you made your own breakfast. You have a vague memory of hearing people shouting in the street last night. You are tired and you have no idea where your GCSE anthology is, much less what it contains.

Now to rent some space in the head of the teacher for a little while. You’ve been told that you must maximise the C grades in this group. You are accountable. The way in which a negative outcome of that accountability might have consequences for you personally, is never specified. You are simply encouraged to feel apprehension.

With a meeting of minds such as this, I think that the word ‘please’ is a baseline expectation rather than something to be removed. If someone is feeling cold in a fetid classroom that still smells of sweat from the previous class, and they are about to be asked to take off their coat, they definitely need to hear ‘please’. The connection that comes from treating each other as humans, rather than resources to be utilised, replaced or used up, is as much as we can hope for in life. Perceiving flexibility and a willingness to negotiate in your teacher is just one manifestation of this.