Choosing your implementation purpose.

I’ve been so fortunate to have just completed a holiday with my family in France. It was something of a ‘bucket list’ trip for my wife, Anthea – but we’ve all enjoyed it immensely.

However, across the trips amazing sights (and tastes!) I couldn’t help my thoughts from wandering occasionally to schools.  

Oddly, it was the way French zebra crossings work that most triggered activity amongst my educational neurons.

Of course, we have zebra crossings in Australia too and so you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s no story to tell here.  But the purpose of a French zebra crossing is profoundly different to an Australian zebra crossing.

Our zebra crossings are designed for control and accountability.  A motorist who fails to stop at a crossing will be penalised heavily, as can a pedestrian who chooses to cross without the requisite white markings on the road.

But in France, the purpose of a zebra crossing is to help and support.  The French want all drivers and pedestrians to simply make their way to their preferred destination efficiently.  

And so the zebra crossings are in France are not rule bound and behaviour isn’t enforced.  Motorists are expected to keep an eye out for pedestrians around zebra crossings, without the fear of recrimination, and pedestrians are expected to do the same.  It works on a simple, if you’ll pardon the … well, French, “don’t be a dickhead” policy.  And it works.

If anyone is being a dickhead.  They aren’t penalised, but are greeted with the look of others that says “Come on, you’re being a dickhead”.  That’s it.

I’m quite sure that the French police quite like that they can focus on other, more important, tasks than supervising zebra crossings.

Just as in the case of zebra crossings, the purpose of any behavioural, bullying or conduct implementation in schools drives the way people participate and also determines who has to do all the work:

PurposeTeacher roleStudent roleWho does the work?When it goes wrong?
Control and accountabilityCatch and punishAvoid getting caughtTeachersTime consuming investigations and penalties.
Help and supportEncourage and praiseParticipateStudentsA look that says “Come on, you’re being a dickhead”.

Systems such as NAPLAN have failed manifestly for a number of reasons.  I’d contend that chief among them is that the results are rarely used to help and support.  NAPLAN is an exercise in control and accountability that many educators wish to avoid.

You might not have much say in whether you run NAPLAN or not.  But you do get to choose the behaviour programs and systems deployed.  Rules, values, codes of conduct, mission statements and the myriad of behaviour matrices laden within trendy positive behaviour ‘programs’ are deeply founded in the intention to control.  And so they fail.

This is fundamentally why I advocate so strongly for Restorative Practices.  Rather than set up elaborate systems of behavioural accountability in your school, RP has a simpler, and perhaps more crude, aim – let’s see if we can’t get parents and educators working together to raise kids who don’t turn out to be dickheads.

And the world could do with a few less dickheads in it.

And so if your school is serious about your students participating in better future rather than getting better at not getting caught behaving poorly, then start with ensuring that your implementations are designed to help and support.

It’s that simple.

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