HomeOpinion & AnalysisAre you a hen or a pig?

Are you a hen or a pig?

by Tim Middleton

We may be familiar with the old fable about a hen and a pig, in which they are discussing how they each play a part in the well-being of mankind through the decidedly crucial element of providing breakfast.

Both animals obviously play a significant part in making this meal such an enjoyable one — the hen provides the eggs and the pig provides the bacon. On the plate, the bacon and eggs are both delicious, appetising, appealing, strengthening. However, while the hen may appear a little relaxed and blasé about the
process, the pig is more concerned. After all, as the pig is quick to point out, the hen is merely involved in providing the breakfast, but the pig is
completely committed.

When we talk of involvement, we are implying something that is more casual, occasional or even inconsistent. Involvement speaks of participation, connection,
contribution, attachment; it is evident in interest and enthusiasm. It is done if it suits us. In contrast, commitment has a deeper sense of sincerity, promise
and emotion; it means devotion, obligation, allegiance, faithfulness, all the while exuding dedication and energy. There is a big difference between
involvement and commitment.

Commitment is often best portrayed in the age-old story of invading armies, such as the Roman army invading Britain, who would burn their boats on landing on
the foreign shores, with the powerful message that there is no turning back — it was clearly a matter of “win or die!” There was no exit strategy available; it
was clearly a point of no return. It all meant that everyone had to be focussed on the task in hand and not look for easier, safer, softer options. Conversely,
other armies used the tactic of attacking opposition on three sides, tempting the opposition with an exit opportunity as it was known that the soldiers would
not fight with such focus, ferocity or tenacity if they knew there was an alternative. Commitment brings greater success than involvement.

The difference between involvement and commitment has been explained in this way. “If we’re merely “involved” in something then we don’t have to give it our
all. If it fails, it’s not the end of the world. But if we’re “committed” that’s a different matter. Then it really is do or die. We’ve got a lot more at
stake.” We do not look for excuses or for exits. Turning back can actually be more dangerous, physically impossible, or simply plain difficult or prohibitively

Where then does this take us? As we continue to look at what constitutes “strong parental support” as a means of ensuring high quality education, we can see
that what is needed for a school to thrive, as opposed to survive, is for parents not simply to be involved, but also committed. Many parents may lay claim,
and declare themselves proud, to be involved — they will pay fees on time; they will attend meetings as requested; they will buy the correct uniform; they will
observe term dates; they will adhere to school policies; they will come to sporting and cultural activities. All that is commendable and positive, but it is
purely involvement, not commitment. It is a token of support.

The support that will provide high quality education will be found when there is total commitment to that school by the parents. Parents who consider moving
schools when something does not quite go right (for their own child) will never offer their full support, will never focus on the possibilities in that school.

Just as turning back can be equally dangerous, so swapping schools can be hazardous and defeating; there is no perfect school, after all. We need rather to
commit to one and fight for it to provide all that it can. Such commitment comes from our willingness to support each other, through mutual trust and respect,
as well as through open and honest dialogue.

The parents’ contribution to the school must be found in wholehearted support. It is not simply a matter of supporting the school financially, materially and
physically, but much more importantly in supporting the school morally, psychologically, spiritually, verbally and, above all, positively. Parents need to take
ownership, not umbrage. Anyone who is worth their bacon will understand the difference between involvement and commitment and that parents can contribute to
the well-being of the school far more significantly (or might that read ‘pig-nificantly’?) by being committed as opposed to being involved. It will also ensure
that the school does not become a total pig’s breakfast. And no hen is needed to eggs — plain that!

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.

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