'Pupils should make amends for bad behaviour'

When pupils vandalised his new car, teacher Stephen Lane learned valuable lessons – about calm leadership and the value of getting children to make amends for their negative behaviour
27th November 2020, 12:00am
'pupils Should Make Amends For Bad Behaviour'
Stephen Lane

Share

'Pupils should make amends for bad behaviour'

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archived/pupils-should-make-amends-bad-behaviour

I had a brand-new car. It was a Rover 25. It was blue and I liked it very much. It was nice to sit in. It was nice to drive.

It was in my second year of teaching, I had just got married and I had a nice brand-new blue car. Life was good.

But then something happened. It was the kind of something that can make the cosmos seem spiky. The kind of something that comes along from time to time to remind you that shiny new blue things have vulnerabilities.

One afternoon, a rumour reached me that someone had vandalised my brand-new blue Rover 25. I went to look. It was horrible. Someone had somehow poured yoghurt along the length of the passenger side of the car. My brand-new blue car.

It was a sunny day, and I immediately realised that the yoghurt would be being baked on to the paintwork, causing permanent scarring.

I was apoplectic. I exploded into the deputy head's office and exclaimed my predicament in incandescent words of flaming fury. "How dare they? How dare they?"

With a level of calm that inspires me to this day, the deputy head arranged for a viewing of the footage from the CCTV. Although the cameras did not cover the scene of the crime, they did reveal some boys walking from the direction of the car park at around the right time of day - lunchtime. They were duly rounded up, summoned and questioned. They stood before us, looking shiftily at the floor as they shuffled their feet, and admitted their terrible deed.

Did they, I enquired, understand how extremely serious a matter this was? Did they comprehend the severity of my angst? Did they fully appreciate how much of an attack on my sense of self this smearing of yoghurt had represented? Did they grasp the personal, intimate connection between a teacher and his brand-new blue Rover 25?

How could they? They were mere boys, not yet fully cognizant of the dynamic and emotionally charged relationship between man and machine.

"Sorry, sir," they said.

Well, what more could they really say?

I learned many lessons that day: to be calm in a position of leadership; that adolescents don't fully understand the consequences of seemingly obvious actions; to not care about my car quite so much as I did before.

I also learned about the value of making pupils make amends in a way that reflects the negative behaviour. Those boys washed my car until it looked as blue and as new as it did before.

Stephen Lane is a head of year and author of Beyond Wiping Noses: building an informed approach to pastoral leadership in schools

This article originally appeared in the 27 November 2020 issue under the headline "Think you can throw yoghurt at my car? This isn't Rover..."

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters