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One thing or the other … but not really

There’s a lot of talk in education circles about student behaviour, and I’ve noticed a lot of that talk tends to be serving the talker more than the listener.

What I mean is that we tend to lapse into absolutes and hyperbole when it becomes more to us that we’re right … than helpful.

One such example is the proliferation of the mantra that “all behaviour is communication”, which is often espoused by those who don’t want students punished as a kneejerk school response to unhelpful behavioural responses.

I can see why we’d say this. It’s about encouraging empathy, understanding, respect for context and learning.

However, I think we’re capable of more nuance. I think:

  • Behaviour and communication are two different words because they genuinely have two different meanings.
  • Behaviour can certainly contain a message that’s worthy of being communicated, but sometimes there’s more to it.
  • Communication can reflect a feeling or need, but sometimes it’s just communication.

When it comes to choosing a restorative pathway for your school, we can also do better than labelling it either “namby pamby rubbish” or relying on it without there ever being a consequence for behavioural shortfalls. In fact:

  • Choosing a restorative model isn’t the thorough rejection of consequences. We show all of our partner schools how to apply consequences consistently … and they’re still mega restorative. It’s not one thing or the other.
  • Choosing a non-restorative model for culture doesn’t mean that you’re a sadist who gets off on punishing kids.

Australia’s educators are capable of an intelligent, respectful, nuanced, detailed and sophisticated conversation about student behaviour and school cultures that make positive behaviours more likely.

We should be keener on that conversation than on proving ourselves right and others wrong.

Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. I’m incredibly proud of the Real Schools team. We’re thrilled to have been chosen as a 2024 Telstra Best of Business Awards State Finalist in the Building Communities category. This recognition celebrates our commitment to transforming education in Australia. Would your school like to join us in this transformation? Feel free to reply to this email or schedule a call with me here to explore how we can support your school.



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