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Fine, I’ll answer your stupid $%*@ing feelings questions

Raph was in Year 7 and living with Tourette’s Syndrome. His version was low impulse control and swearing tics when placed under any social pressure.


Adam (that’s me) was the Assistant Principal in charge of behaviour. You’d be right in thinking that Raph and I were in regular contact.


One day, I tired of talking Raph off rooves and out of toilets. When he’d done nothing wrong, I went for a chat and handed him the restorative questions on a card. Normally, I don’t bother with the script, but I felt that Raph might benefit from the agreed consistency.


I asked if we could just agree to these questions and his response was, “Oh fine, I’ll answer your stupid f…ing feelings questions.” I took the win rather than the bait … it proved to be the right choice.


Over the ensuing months Raph progressed into cooperating with this problem-solving ritual and then into actually demanding it. He even began self-reporting incidents as a perpetrator that his condition meant he had very little personal control over.


He then began authentically making amends for upsetting people without my involvement at all. Which is a major win for us both.


Several years later, I discovered that Raph had an apprenticeship, a car and a partner. These are not outcomes I’d have predicted for him. If forced, I’d possibly have predicted jail for him.


The moral of Raph’s story? You might want, or even deserve, to work with respectful, empathic and successful young people. But pitching such distant ambitions in front of them right now is a recipe for shame and failure.


Start small. The raindrop of trust inherent in, “Oh fine, I’ll answer your stupid f…ing feelings questions,” is the right first step on a worthwhile path. Take it.


Keep fighting that good fight,



P.S. There are still a few cities left on my Great Aussie Tour, so if you’d like to join one of my PL workshops for educators and school leaders, take a look at the dates and locations here and make sure you register!

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