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Taming Dinosaurs

I meet a lot of school leaders, specifically those who are implementing Restorative Practices.

Many of these leaders have discussed phenomena with me regarding experienced teachers who are wed to older crime/punishment/blame-based models of improving student behaviour … and how they’re struggling to budge these teachers.

Their experience with these teachers is frustration and exasperation, often resulting in them even using some vaguely derogatory terms like “dinosaur”. Even I’ve referred to such teachers as being a bit “rusted on”, although I can sincerely say I do this with my tongue wedged into my cheek in a casual attempt to make some light of our collective stubbornness.

But, viewing the problem of shifting the model of experienced teachers through negative feelings and labels is half of the problem.

It’s more productive to understand that all teachers take their practice very personally. And comprehend that any experienced teacher asked to change their practice is hearing that you want them to change their personality. They hear that you think everything they’ve done, potentially across decades, is wrong.

This produces palpable shame, fear and anxiety for this teacher. It’s little wonder they confront school leaders with resistance, or even obstinance, in such conversations.

Early career teachers are often keen to know the how of teaching. They might be low on experience but often high on enthusiasm.

Experienced teachers are often the opposite. High on capacity and perhaps a little lower on enthusiasm. Respect that and resist the urge to base your conversations on how. It can be insulting and demeaning.

Instead, spend some time explaining why the need to change is so critical.

Bother to build a left-brain presentation (some stats/facts/science that supports the case for change) and a right-brain validation (in the form of a story/anecdote demonstrating the potential of a personal reward or growth).

When a dinosaur changes direction, they’re a powerful driver of your restorative agenda. Give them a chance by approaching them with healthy respect for all that they’ve done already.


Keep fighting that good fight,


PS. I’m excited to announce the release of my latest white paper, “Caught in the Implementation Gap“. I wrote the white paper to help Western Australian principals face the implementation predicament as they seek to comply with Restorative Practices-based Student Behaviour In Public Schools Policy & Procedures. You can download it here.


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