Why bother?

Way back in 2006 it was almost impossible to be in a British school and not hear the word “bovvered” being bandied about. For those of you who don’t remember 2006 or were managing to avoid UK television at the time, the word was popularised by actor Catherine Tate in her comedy sketch show when playing the 15 year old malcontent Lauren Cooper[1]. So popular was the catchphrase that it was word of the year and seemed to sum up the grumpy teenager with remarkable accuracy. Tony Blair even got in on the act[2]. After all, young people once they reach the age of about thirteen seem programmed to have a couple of years of not being bothered by anything else around them.

I wonder if this might be changing. I have the impression in many of my daily interactions with young people that many are indeed bothered, very bothered indeed. A consideration of the last few weeks of school life illustrate this well. Take the Senior School show We Will Rock You, a group of students (ably led by staff) generated a show of real quality. The delegates to the Model United Nations Congress in The Hague demonstrated real concern for others and a wonderfully mature approach to conducting high level discussions about pressing world issues. Yesterday, there were pupils opting to do an additional maths test, whilst others were submitting an audition recording for a piano competition. Today we see athletes departing for fixtures in the Netherlands.

Our young people face a challenging future. I believe that the more bothered they are then the more likely they are to find success and fulfilment. The educational writer Hywell Roberts makes a great point when he says that “At the heart of the world’s best teaching you’ll find one admittedly made-up word -botheredness.” Both we and they need this. As teachers we are hopefully providing direction and a degree of inspiration, for the pupil it is accepting that from time to time there is some work to be done. If there ever was a time of the school year to remind ourselves about being bothered it is now when winter has stretched on, when coughs and colds are rife and when quite frankly half term can’t arrive too quickly. For our younger pupils it is all about maintaining that joy of learning and for our older ones it is about being ready to accept the challenge afforded by the coming exams. Right now it is all to easy to fall into the I can’t be bothered trap. It is important that it is avoided, whatever Lauren might think about it.

Nicholas Hammond


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxB1gB6K-2A

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfkjvagVsRI