Don’t judge a book by its cover, or David by his trainers

Last week I finally made the time to start reading a new book. The book in question was ‘Restorative Practice’ by Mark Finnis and I had really been looking forward to diving into my favourite subject… getting the best from pupils by building positive and respectful relationships. I am sure I have made it very clear by now that I am a strong advocate of developing a school culture based on dialogue, reflection and empathy and this book provides practical advice on how to do this in a highly engaging and easy to understand way.

This post is not actually going to talk specifically about restorative practice, but is going to reflect on one of the stand out messages that I took from Mark’s book.

‘You have no idea what students are dealing with in their own life. So just be nice – it’s that simple’ – Mark Finnis

Early on in his book, Mark tells us the story of a pupil called David. The premise of the story is that David comes to school late and wearing white trainers. When confronted he swears at the teacher and ends up being excluded. The story goes on to tell us about David and his challenging home life where he experiences deprivation and domestic abuse. He is not wanting to be late or choosing to wear white trainers.

I have certainly come across pupils like David and I sure you all have too. I know that where I am aware of a pupil’s difficulties I do consciously treat them differently as I understand that they require support rather than sanctions. The point that Mark is making is that any of your pupils could be having significant challenges in their lives and your interactions with them in school can be very damaging if negative and unsupportive. Relationships are key and these need to be built on empathetic dialogue and support.

We don’t know what is going on in the lives of all our pupils so we should be nice to them all, however frustrating we sometimes find challenging pupils and their behaviours. The way to succeed in supporting these pupils is to build positive relationships with them. This in turn will enable to you have a dialogue about their behaviours in a restorative way and you are far more likely to see positive changes.

I urge you all to read Mark’s book as I really do believe that his tagline of “building relationships, improving behaviour and creating stronger communities” is the key to unlocking all that is good in education.

Published by Matthew Domine

Secondary School Deputy Principal. Pastoral leader and music teacher.

3 thoughts on “Don’t judge a book by its cover, or David by his trainers

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