Scroll Top

The road we choose to travel

There is a concept that seems to resonate with almost every school we work with. We refer to them as ‘Orange Light Moments’. You know, those moments in a school day, whether it’s with an individual student, a group of kids or an entire class, that could go either way. Those times or places that signal possible tension or conflict, and could turn into Red Light Moments very swiftly. Or, if we’re lucky, we might be able to guide things safely back into Green Light territory.


There are a lot of things that can influence which way an Orange Light Moment goes; the emotional state of our students, the antecedents we may or may not be privy to, our relationship with the student/s. But often, one of the defining influences (which just so happens to be the one thing we have some control over), is our response.


In these Orange Light Moments, we are nearly always presented with options. We can choose to go towards conflict. We can ignore it and hope it goes away. We can choose to be intentional with our language, or we can emotionally react. We can panic, threaten, or shame, or we can get curious and seek to understand, whilst upholding boundaries and remaining the adult in the room.


Of course, there are a couple of caveats to note. Choosing Option B (what we might call ‘Taking the High Road’), doesn’t always result in an orange light turning green. Despite using all the tools in our Restorative Toolkit, things can still go a bit pear shaped. Education is a human game and we can’t always control the outcome when we are dealing in messy humanness. All we can do is follow a restorative process to tip the odds in our favour.


Secondly, sometimes we really don’t have the choice to take that longed-for high road. If there is danger or real urgency at play, we might need to react in an authoritarian way to ensure everyone stays safe. That’s okay. We can always have the teaching moment after the danger and/or emotion has passed.


I often ask teachers to think about those Orange Light Moments in their school. When do they tend to occur? At what time of the day/week/year? With which kids? Where?


If we are clear about these moments, we can devise a proactive response. We can agree to processes and strategies that allow us to stay curious and present a united front as the adults in the learning culture.


If we as colleagues can agree on and commit to being consistent in our processes when it comes to potential conflict and behaviours, we not only signal clearly to our students and families what we value in our school culture, but we demonstrate what true collaboration and teamwork looks like. And I reckon that’s an aspiration worth striving for.


I’d love to hear in the comments what the Orange Light Moments are at your school. And if you get the chance, talk to your colleagues about them too. Do you have agreed responses for when you come across these moments? And if the answer is no, isn’t that worthy of a chat?


Check out other articles Kirsty has written here.