I’ve been doing this thing with Y11 where every time I mention Sir Robert Peel, I then say, “our good friend.” Why? A while ago one of the group mentioned that he turns up a lot, and across a couple of our units. “He’s everywhere!”, she said. And so I responded with, “yes, our good friend”, and now I say it every time.
And? Well now I don’t have to mention his name. I just ask, “and which friend of ours …?” And the reply comes: “Is it .. It’s not our good friend, Sir Robert Peel, is it?”
“Why yes, Josh! Yes it is.”
“He’s everywhere, Sir. He founded the Met as well.”
“And when was that, Katie?”
“1829, Sir. After he’d written the Gaols Act, of course.”
“My!”, I say. “He was a busy boy.”
I’ve written here about the importance of repetition, but what I’ve not mentioned is the idea of repeating snippets of stories, or phrases, which are either memorable on their own, or link various events together which might not appear obvious.
I do the same with concepts, events and actions: “That bloomin’ old Treaty of Versailles, eh?”; “Oh, like Semmelweis’s death from infection? How ironic!”. And I ham it up. Oh yes, I play the fool – I feign ignorance and slap on the slapstick, heavy and thick. But it works – “It’s ironic because that’s what he campaigned against, Sir, and yet people wouldn’t read his work because it was too full of statistics.”
And they laugh, because it’s this little in-joke we have, the twenty-eight of us and me, all laughing at our silliness, and no-one else will get it. And it’s safe in my room to laugh, because children who wouldn’t otherwise get on all get it. Together. As does our good friend, Sir Robert Peel.