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Caging Ants

The tools and resources that work best are fit for purpose.

Cages, for instance, are useful for caging things that can’t slip between the bars of the actual structure.  That’s why they work well for tigers, but not for ants.

In the end, you can build your cage with gold bars, you can plaster your logo on it, you can negotiate its design with every cage stakeholder and you can pay a cage consultant to run several professional learning days on contemporary cage construction if you like … but it ain’t holding any ants.

When we build cages for randomly moving and largely indefinable phenomena like behaviours, we can expect those exhibiting the behaviours to seek the gaps between the bars in our cages and to show utter disinterest in the bars themselves, as an ant would.

At best, they see them and wander around them.  In much the same way that we see motorists slow down for known fixed speed cameras and speed between them, deep down we know we haven’t altered their care or interest in driving safely.  We just trained them in not getting caught doing the wrong thing.

I see so many schools these days building elaborate behaviour cages in the forms of matrixes, flowcharts, procedures and policies.  They often seek to define behaviours by colours or levels.

But I also see these behaviours dodging the levels and befuddling the school on what to do when “disrespect to a teacher” can be defined in multiple ways.  It’s genuinely confusing.

A better ambition than an impressive cage is an ant who cares about how she is moving.  Which leaves us with an important question … how could we commence to manifest care, compassion, self-regulation and empathy in our schools?

I reckon we can if we give it some thought.  We had time to answer the question of how to build a behaviour cage.  Just use that time to answer a different question.

Keep fighting that good fight,

PS. It’s been a whirlwind taking our workshops to Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne over the last three weeks. Sydney and Adelaide … you’ve still got time to get the good stuff. You know you want to! All the info is here.

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