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How’d we get here?

Many schools and school systems are looking to unlock the current challenges we’re having around student behaviour.

Before we choose a course of action, I’d suggest examining how we got to this point. We don’t have this problem for no reason, and it’s worth determining where we went wrong so that we don’t make the same mistakes twice.

I’d suggest we’ve made four fundamental mistakes:

  1. Knowledge transfer. We assumed that building a character trait happens through merely knowing what that trait is. For example, we outsourced the building of respect to a program or mini-lesson. We made murals about respect, only to discover that our students weren’t more respectful… just better at murals.
  2. Control bias. We poured effort into designing and building systems that seek to control students. These require too much time and effort from our teachers to be effective. More efficient would be to design cultures where preferred behaviours are easier to do than those behaviours we’re currently putting up with.
  3. Skewed beliefs about “the real world”. That the “real world” provides immediate consequences for poor behaviours is a myth. When was the last time you were punished for indicating without changing lanes? The real world tends to reward those with a clear moral code. That’s what we’ll need to install in students.
  4. Values implementation. The first organisations to feel the need to tell us their values were big oil and big tobacco. It was marketing and not a commitment to a behavioural shift. Far too many schools are speaking to their values, icons they’ve spent inordinate resources to build, without building environs where those behaviours are normalised. Dare I say it, nobody cares if you espouse that your school is more respectful than the school down the road. And it’s not true anyway.

If you can acknowledge these mistakes and see them as unworthy of repeating, then you can work on knowing the current challenge. I’ll make that the subject of next week’s Home Truth.

Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. In case you missed it, I released a White Paper, Caught in the Implementation Gap. I wrote it to help WA Principals facing the implementation predicament as they seek to comply with the Restorative Practices-based Student Behaviour In Public Schools Policy & Procedures. I’m also hosting a free webinar on 30 May at 10am (12pm AEST) to give Principals practical advice and guidance to help navigate the complexities of implementing it in their schools. You can register here or watch this video to see why it’s worth attending. 



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