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As we continue to strain and struggle to provide educational normalcy with our students, many teachers are telling me that they’ve noticed something rather disturbing about them.

They’re reporting that there appears to be very little gap, or none at all, between impulse and action in our students.

The impulse comes to swear and they immediately swear.

The impulse comes to litter and they reflexively drop their rubbish on the ground.

The impulse comes to even hurt another student and the punch is thrown in a heartbeat.

What is it that we’d like wedged between the impulse and action?  It’s pretty obvious really.  It’s thought.  We’d like them to think before they act.

To get to that level of empathy-driven self-regulation you’re going to need to teach your students to predict the outcomes of their countless daily choices.  You’re going to need to ensure they hear about that impact in your language.

When telling a student that they shouldn’t have littered, tell them that the behaviour disappointed you.  Equally, when they do something positive like open a door for you, tell them how impressed you are.

If your staff can normalise this way of speaking, using what we call Affective Language in a restorative model, your students will eventually gather enough personally relevant information to ignite that spark of thought between impulse and action.

That thought might only manifest as a seemingly insignificant “Ah, I probably shouldn’t” but this leads to an alternate behaviour to littering.  That behaviour might be placing their chip wrapper in the bin … and you thanking them.

There’s power in your words.  Choose them wisely and you might even reduce your workload dealing with negative behaviour choices and get yourself busy congratulating more positive ones.

Keep fighting that good fight.

PS. This is the kind of simple, practical advice provided in the Real Schools App, which also contains the inspirational Kokoda Schools App. Find out how your staff can access either for 12-months at this handy link.

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