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Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS].

Dele Alli has had an extraordinary career in soccer. He is an exciting, talented, attacking midfielder who has won 37 caps for England and was named the PFA Young Player of the Year twice; he played for the Tottenham Hotspur team that came very close to winning the Premier league twice and the Champions League once but the arrival of a different manager and the compound effect of a very tough childhood led to a loss of form as well as serious injury. He was recently being interviewed on television, speaking about some of the severe difficulties he has faced, when one of his former managers, Mauriccio Pochettino, interrupted the interview simply to comment “What a player! Oh, my goodness!” At that moment, it was extremely noticeable how Dele Alli’s face just lit up with a huge smile. Just a few words from his former boss and he was hugely uplifted!

What we should be exclaiming ourselves here is “What a manager! Oh, my goodness!” for he knew how important it is, even for extremely talented people, to be encouraged and uplifted with positive reinforcement. Pochettino certainly lived out what a social media post by Danny Donachie stated: “A great coach will see the best version of you, long before you see it yourself.”

That is the reality — many people do not see how great their accomplishments are, do not know how inspiring they are, do not know how beautiful what they are doing is. Is it because they are blind and just do not see the effect, because they are too close to the action? Is it that they are deaf to the response to their actions? No, most likely it is not; they are not blind or deaf as they have seen beyond the horizon and believed beyond the doubts. Why then might they not accept it?

The most likely explanation is that they have never been told it; no-one has ever said “well done!” No-one has ever said, “That was fantastic! You are beautiful! This is stunning!” Furthermore, no-one has ever shown their appreciation, understanding, respect, delight, gratitude in all sorts of possible different ways. Six words from a former manager lit up Dele Alli’s face in a beautiful instant. Six words! It all serves to exemplify a statement that Robert Mechan was quoted as saying in a ‘Education in Developing Country’ social media post recently: “When we see something beautiful in a student, let them know. It may take a second to say but for them it could last a lifetime!”

How often do we do that? How often have we taken a moment to tell someone how special or beautiful they are? When a headmaster sent a hand-written two sentence note to teachers along such lines, one teacher responded, “I’m going to frame that” while another said, “That meant more to me than my salary”. A brief positive comment, on waking in the morning, last thing at night, at any time during the day, can bring enormous pleasure, encouragement, inspiration, confidence and energy to even the toughest pioneers, the strongest characters, the most resolute workers.

Yet how often do we do that? We are too busy inspecting, looking for the faults, instead of inspiring, praising the goodness. Are we as parents seeing, praising the good things our child is doing or being? Are we as teachers telling our pupils how talented they are? Are we as heads uplifting our staff? Are we as ministry recognising and acknowledging the good being done in so many schools against all odds? Husbands? Some people are limited not by their expectations, but by a lack of encouragement.

Perhaps it comes back to the lyrics from the song ‘The Power of Love’ sung by Celine Dion and Jennifer Rush (among others) where the singer proclaims she is “heading for something, somewhere I’ve never been, something I am frightened, but I’m ready to learn of the power of love”. Love has the power to carry people further and longer. Love is actioned in a few short words, in a few seconds. There are thousands upon thousands of children ready to learn the power of love.

Even those people, such as those we considered in a previous article, who live beyond their expectations and achieve incredible things, who have seen beyond the horizon and sallied forth with incredible determination and grace, even they need to be reminded how special they are. Has that person been told how special she is? Let us do it now! You are incredible; you are beautiful, special, stunning; you are gracious, generous, gorgeous; you are sparky, spunky; you are wise, kind and humble: you are unbelievably awesome! What a person! Oh, my goodness! Viva La Vita!


  • Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
  • Email: tim@atszim.org website: atszim.org

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