Building Strong RelationshipsJohn Blois
Mr Stuart Smith has been a Chaplain at Trinity’s Preparatory School for 16 years, so he’s seen his fair share of students come in as Pre-K students and leave, ready for high school. Interacting with the boys, right across their Preparatory School experience means that strong relationships are critical.
“The word that would really stand out for me each day is ‘relationships’,” Stuart says. “Relationships are key for me. My role really allows me to develop a relationship with them from their first day to their last day.
“I’m always conscious that I’m teaching a subject that some boys are very passionate about and, for other boys, they have absolutely no interest in it. No matter what, I want them to have the best time in Christian Studies and the best time in Chapel, and keep those relationships at the centre.
“I want boys on their last day of school to say ‘God’s not boring and I know exactly what he’s done for me’. Whether they take that on board or not is up to them, but if they have a great time in those classes, they’ll remember it.”
Flexibility also comes to mind when Stuart looks to describe his role at Trinity.
“I can honestly say I’ve never had two days the same. It’s always different and that’s what I love about it. Every day is a new one.”
Not only is each day full of variety, he enjoys the ability to change things up if students don’t connect with a lesson or his approach. He actively looks for feedback from the boys, wanting their input to make sure he can connect with them better.
“If they’re saying that a class wasn’t that great, I’ll say, ‘Okay, we’ll change it’,” Stuart says. “I’m so thankful that at Trinity I have the flexibility to change things.”
Having been at the School for so many years, Stuart could easily say he’s taught some lessons hundreds of times, knowing the content like the back of his hand. But, while he knows his lessons inside and out, he’s been challenged and supported in recent years to make sure all that knowledge isn’t locked inside his own head.
“I need to remember that just because I know how it goes, it doesn’t mean that someone else does. I’m not the kind of person to enjoy writing programmes, but I’m really learning to appreciate that those things are important when it comes to helping your team.
“There’s a lot of frustration that teachers feel about the amount of paperwork and you can easily justify that frustration if it’s just for yourself, but it’s not. It’s not about me! It’s about making sure that if someone needed to fill in for me, the boys could still have the same awesome experience.
“The team has really pushed us to understand that it’s not about us, it’s about the team and about the boys.”
Being on the staff team is not Stuart’s first experience with Trinity. As an Old Boy he says it’s the values of the School that he loved as a student and he continues to appreciate as a staff member.
“The things that were important, the things that the School said mattered, they never compromised on,” he says. “It was really good to come back and, 17 years after I had left, see that they were still holding firm to those values. And they still do, nearly 17 years into my time here on staff.”
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