“Is that about right?”

I was recently discussing with some educators in a Partner school the challenge of persuading students to move forward when there’s conflict, rather than retreating into all the details of the past about why s/he is right and why hating the other is fully justified.

Our tendency to allow this backwards creep is often driven by a pervading belief that all parties need to be thoroughly heard.  I’d suggest the “heard” part of that equation is true … but that it’s the “thoroughly” that is letting us down.

I’d prefer to get a rough gist of what’s happened and then move the conversation forward into discussing the harm and formulating a plan to fix it.

It means I need to be the adult in the room and fearlessly cut the conversation off whenever I hear the students giving me more information than I need.  If the conversation lapses into anything that happened before the incident, that’s a sign I need to summarise.

I’ll say “Ok gotcha.  So this began with a disagreement about a handball point, became nasty name-calling and even got a little physical in the end.”

And then I ask The Summary Question “Is that about right?”

Anything other than downright disagreement – a vague nod and a “Well … I suppose” is all I’m after – and I’m refusing to go any further into detective mode.

Teachers all around Australia launch enormous, time-consuming investigations that take us nowhere every day.  It’s like being an actor in some sort of Educational CSI episode. 

It’s pointless and it’s time we taught our students to get to the point.

Get a gist.  Summarise.  Ask “Is that about right?”.  Do something about it.  Get out of there.  Clean.

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