Most mornings I stand, come rain or shine, outside the school gate saying good morning to the children as they arrive. From as young as 2 ½, pupils are taught to shake me by the hand, look me in the eye and say good morning. Some take to this like a duck to water; others need to build up confidence. With younger children, it might be a shake of the hand (or paw) of a favourite toy friend they have brought in, or shaking mum or dad’s hand, that instils the confidence to progress to shaking the Headmaster’s hand. Beyond building trust and confidence between Headmaster and pupil, the simple act of the morning meet and greet is designed to develop an important life skill: making a good first impression.
In the last few weeks, this morning ritual has gone somewhat to pot. This is because Bickley Park has a new celebrity: Selkie the dog. Selkie is always at my side for the school gate meet and greet and now finds herself being much feted.
Selkie’s latest ‘Dog Blog’ https://www.bickleyparkschool.co.uk/dog-blog/dr-selkies-case-book/ told the story of how she has gently supported two Year 8 pupils: Alex and Charlie. It was picked up by the BBC and used in a Radio London broadcast and as a video link on the front page of the BBC website. For much of the day the video link attracted the second most number of views nationally. In our inter-connected world, this has led to a flurry of interest from individuals and media outlets. Dog and boys have attracted further interest, ranging from ‘Your Dog’ magazine to an invitation to be interviewed on behalf of ITV’s ‘This Morning’.
Selkie’s celebrity status has resulted in a lot attention at the school gate to the detriment of the morning ritual of shaking the Headmaster’s hand. She has enjoyed the extra attention, but is, of course, blissfully unaware as to why she is getting more pats than usual. 21st century ‘celebrity’ is an interesting concept with the sobriquet often seemingly earned by those who grab headlines due to their attention seeking behaviour or mastery of Twitter. Yet it is often those that give quietly and unconditionally that go unrecognised and under the radar. For that reason, I am glad that Selkie is unwittingly having her moment in the sun.
Two Year 7 boys thought it was a good idea that Selkie should build on her new found status by appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity: get me out of here!’. I am sure she would engage in any of the eating challenges whole-heartedly, but would likely end her involvement by picking up a poisonous snake thinking it was a stick. It was good to hear one jungle celebrity sharing some good advice with his audience. Harry Redknapp shared his mantra with his fellow contestants: ‘Leave people feeling good about themselves. Tell them what they can do, not what they can’t.’ With a quiet wag of the tail, this is a message Selkie will always radiate and one we should all aspire to adopt.