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Too much of a good thing

I’ve had several conversations with schools considering a harder line when it comes to improving student behaviour. I get it. It’s hard at the moment. Our workforce is somewhere between stretched and overwhelmed, and we’re a feeling little desperate.


The evidence for some schools choosing this path is a quick win they’ve had. They’ve launched a crackdown on a problematic behaviour – such as phones, vaping, swearing or littering – and it kind of worked.


Then somebody suggested that the new crackdown strategy should be taken to scale and that all behaviours can be tackled this way.


The problem the school now faces is that the underpinning of the first win was focused attention, absolute effort and the ramping up of surveillance. When we attempt to take that plan to scale, we simply run out of those precious commodities.


Crackdowns provide, at best, a short-term result that:


  • Fails to build the student interest in repeating the behaviour without the threat of penalty.
  • Fails to develop student character or compassion, meaning teachers will always be responsible for providing the energy to sustain the change.
  • Exhausts and frustrates teachers.


I’m all for high expectations. But I’m not so big on strategies that strain already struggling educators and set them up to eventually fail.


Your approach to improving student behaviour needs to be sustainable. The strategies you choose should reduce teacher effort, increase your effectiveness and promote student character growth.


That’s the restorative promise.


Keep fighting that good fight,



P.S. I’m not embarrassed to say how proud I am of the work we do in schools across Australia every day here at Real Schools. So I wanted to share the story of one of our partner schools, Berrima Public School, and their journey to embed restorative practices to strengthen connections and build trust between teachers and students.

Take a look here.

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