My first team soccer coach at school was a Welshman who tried to teach me, a Scotsman, English – but that is another story! Before every match, his final words to us before we went on the pitch, proclaimed in a typically lyrical and passionate tone, was “Discourage them!” He had previously explained what he meant by that sentiment: “I don’t mean play dirty – just play so hard that your opponents are discouraged and want to give up.

As you set out for a new term, I wish to encourage you, the teachers of our young people, not to discourage our children but to encourage them – let me, like my soccer coach, explain to you what I mean by that. I do not mean teach rough – just teach so hard that your children are encouraged and want to carry on and on and on. Encourage them! Our children are experiencing discouragement all around them, so that many want to give up, they do not even want to try, they wonder what the point is. They are discouraged by injustice, indifference, intolerance, apathy, absence, idleness, bullying, silence and much more. These are our opponents and we must discourage them, not our children. Discouragements sap the energy out of people, bleed them dry, cut into them deeply,

We must en-courage our children, literally, by putting courage in them, by giving them courage to face the future and hardships and difficulties and failures and disappointments. We must put courage into them so that they can be confident and excited in moving forward.

How can we encourage them, put courage into them? We can encourage them by praising them for their efforts (more than for their ability – each must do what they can do with what they have), by advising them in their situations, by thanking them for their contributions, by being with them in their moments, by smiling with them, by trusting them, by believing in them, by expressing our delight in both spoken and written words, by finding good in each of them.

We must be their hope-bringers, light-bearers, life-changers, scar-healers, chance-givers, and thus encourage them as they move through life.

My desire is to put courage into you to do that – and we in ATS will do what we can to assist and to encourage you. Thank you for what you have done in difficult circumstances; thank you for what you can and will do. Do keep checking the ATS website, , where there will be further articles posted – a recent one on “Making Teaching Relevant” has been added.

I wish you great joy, fulfilment and fruitfulness as you continue to encourage this important generation.