Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Behaviour Management: Conversation Over Confrontation

Late last term, Adam reminded us of the importance of attempting restorative conversations. These are a behaviour management strategy, which focuses on the repair and rebuild of relationships, as opposed to a punitive approach. The aim of developing confidence to create restorative chats with students, is for the students to gain closer connections with others and become more empathetic and aware of others thoughts, values, feelings, decisions. 

Learning how to hold a restorative conversation, and practicing how to complete them, are important for the future of the student's relationship with you and others, but also their long term behaviour. I leant a lot about these conversations at Tamaki (see here and here), but as I was so new to teaching, I found these conversations very difficult. Throughout this year I have been attempting to have more, because I think they are significantly more beneficial for the student's learning than punitive measures like writing lines and detentions (which I unfortunately still give, as they are part of the school system!), because the students are likely to learn more from a personal, honest chat as opposed to copying words onto a page or a confrontational grilling!

I decided to write this post late last term, when Adam asked the department if we are open to learning. If we are open to discuss the things we are challenged by or things that are not working. It is of course much easier to write a post about things that are going amazing, but we are obviously more likely to learn from reflecting on and thinking about the not-so amazing stuff. For me, two  things I am struggling with are having these conversations with students, but also having challenging chats with my colleagues (I plan to read a lot more about the latter and write a post in a few weeks).

The most recent attempt I had at a restorative chat was with a Year 9 student late last term. This student had repeatedly been disruptive throughout the lesson, disrespected others and was not getting involved the activities. After several reminders of how to talk to others, he threw a racquet forcefully at the ground for his own entertainment. By that point I'd had enough, and asked him to sit out. He went and sat on a chair a few metres away from the class game and a couple of minutes later I sat on the floor in front of him. I attempted to maintain the WARM layout for the conversation (as previously linked and alongside), and keep a calm voice. He was able to explain to me what'd happened throughout the lesson and who may have been affected by some of his decisions. He agreed that these needed to change. What actually emerged from the conversation was that his mum was really sick, and it was unexpected. He was angry about this. Why did his Mum need to get sick? Why couldn't he help her? So every time he was bugged by someone or something, that was pushing him closer and closer to the edge. We both felt a lot better after our discussion because he knew that I was more understanding of how his actions came about, and he was more understanding of how some of his behaviours were unacceptable. Moving forward, I hope to see more positive choices from him, to see whether this conversation did have an impact on him!

I watched the above Ted Talk which explores restoratives practices to resolve conflict and build relationships. Some of the key points I took away from the talk were;
- Students may not understand what they have done is incorrect or wrong, so it is important we educate them about why it is not ok. If they don't understand why it isn't, the behaviour may reoccur.
- Katy used a 'time in' instead of a 'time out' - when students were deemed as 'misbehaving', instead of sending them out of the class, she had designated a 'time in' zone, where she asks the students to go, to then have a chat with them.
- Before having the conversations, consider how whatever had happened leading to the chat, and the chat included, could have actually contributed positively to the future.
- Be honest and empathetic
- Understand why the restorative conversations are important in the bigger picture.
- Use I statements rather then saying You, to avoid blaming or accusing.
- Consider and attempt a discussion about why the student made the decision(s) they did - what is going on in their lives, did anything possibly trigger it etc.
- But also avoiding the use of the word why when possible
- Talk with the student, not at them!


  1. Āna! Awesome to see you continually reflect on this Georgia. We can all do with learning, re-learning and exploring ways to resolve conflict and build relationships through restorative practices :) I love Katy's idea of a 'time in' class - might give that a go next year - Ka hua te whakaaro, ka hua te kōrero!

    1. Restorative practice, as I’m sure you’ve experienced multiple times, is super challenging! I agree, the more we think about it, give it a go and reflect how it went, the more confident we feel having a restorative chat. I’m thinking I’ll give time in a go too - just need to think carefully about where that space might be! Ngā mihi tautoko


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