❮   all STORIES
We change other people's behaviour by changing our own.

Don't Manage, Discover.

I always found that when staff talked to me about pupil behaviour, particularly after a bad day, that I wanted to work it out. I could be the one in a fit shape to get some perspective and to be able to offer a strategy. The one thing that I always said is that we should never rely on wishful thinking in these situations, we must always have some strategy, some theory, to put our faith in.

I had a young man in year 4 that I really liked. The problem was, that he did not want to behave well in class, and that there was a deep rooted issue that I needed to work out. I liked Mum, and we got on well. The young man in question, was charming and intelligent, but he could also be disruptive and mean.

Over the years, I had tried to work him out. I mean that I was beyond managing him, I wanted solutions and answers. Punishment would be futile and would not support improvement. In a moment of enlightenment, I brought him out of class and we sat in the hall.

'We always worked to avoid exclusions partly because we knew it wasn't really a solution and also because we were very proud of our record. This meant that we may be guilty of tolerating more, and so we made sure that this did not affect the learning and the safety of others.'

'If there was a league table of the most important people in your class, who would be at the top?' I asked him.

He looked at me for a moment. With the most honest and endearing face.
'Me' he replied.

He wasn't rude or upset, he was cautious and calm. I had made my discovery. It was all about his regard for the other children. I explained that there was no league table because everyone was equal, regardless of size, gender, colour or any other characteristic.

'When we see poor behaviour choices, there is always a reason for this. When we manage behaviour with this in mind we can do so from a place of care and objectivity. We all knew, when working in this community, that our children may not necessarily arrive with good behaviour. We knew that it would be our job to teach this.'

He got it, and we had established our common language. Whilst growing up, he had not yet stopped to really consider anyone else because he hadn't needed to. This may well have been conditional, or developmental, but it had been the root cause of his unkindness.


We did some great work when we got this right. Some really profound strategies were implemented that could help many children. Our staff were incredibly talented when working with children who may be at risk of exclusion. Often, the conversations in the corridor and staffroom centred around adversity and our stories of success. After this experience, we rolled out an initiative called 'United'. This was aimed to span the year groups, living and breathing through a high profile series of events that could permeate into every classroom setting. For example, at the end of the year, we split the whole school into 16 classes for a day with every class having representatives from every year group, including Nursery. Then the children participated in activities where they could identify and value each others views and talents.

When we met on the corridor, our relationship was in good shape. When he was unkind, we could resolve things. We began to see that this behaviour wasn't helping him and from what we know, people will only really do anything if it benefits themselves. I took him on a residential before he left us to the lake district. I watched him build boats together with his team before seeing him sail from one side of Windermere to the other and back.

This success can be fed back to staff to further our strategic approach. It confirmed that this was a good way to work. It was all about egocentricity and how we could broaden awareness. Many children are like this although they may not harm others and they will outgrow the prospect of this inhibiting successful relationships. What he was doing, was what we could often see in children in our nursery setting. Stickers and rewards were not really the answer, this was all about acceptance.

About the Author

David Rushby

Former Teaching Assistant.

Observations, learning walks, book studies and parent and pupil surveys for your ipad or tablet

Get 'Everything is Going to be Alright' in your inbox

Thanks for subscribing

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." – Helen Keller

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form :(

Suggested Stories

The Word Love