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Ugly truth about offsetting ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour

A period of behaving oneself doesn’t atone for previously breaking the rules, however much it may appeal to our sense of justice, says Jarlath O’Brien

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“If I’m good for the rest of the lesson, can I work off that detention, Sir?” was a plea I heard regularly in my first few years teaching physics in a comprehensive school.

And I’m sorry to say it was a plea that, to begin with, was met with agreement on my part, more than once.

Do you think that agreeing to this offsetting of “right” against “wrong” leads to improvements in behaviour? Have you ever done this? If so, how did you decide how much “right” a child had to do to make up for the “wrong”?

At first glance, we might convince ourselves that offsetting could work. It may appeal to our ...

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