Children do the same thing, particularly if they’ve been caught doing something and they can see a means of putting their case better. They are, in reality, developing as mini politicians, seeking to gain advantage in social situations. Maybe politicians just haven’t grown up….. One and only (poor) political joke!
Teachers use the same phrases, in promotion of or in defence of a particular approach to learning and teaching. Sadly, this can degenerate into a form of name calling, such as “You’re one of THEM”, “You’re progressive, child-centred…”
As a head, it was often my lot to act as Solomon, and judge the merits of a case. When faced with two conflicting versions of the same event, it was often necessary to seek “witnesses” and to weigh up the “evidence” as presented. I would always ask children to tell me “their version of the truth”, but always with the caveat that I’d check the details, especially in marginal cases.
After considering all angles, I’d present the evidence that I had collated to the children and gave reasoning behind my judgements, showing the balance of evidence. Sometimes I had to demonstrate that this was inconclusive. Why bother? Simply because I wanted the children to realise that I would listen to them, that they had a voice and that sometimes we see the world through our own filters. In a bizarre way, I was probably intuitively working with a form of Restorative Justice, although I wouldn’t have called it that.
It was important that the children thought that they had been fairly treated.
The truth is, I probably made, in life as well as in school, as many errors of judgement as correct ones, because, however hard we try, we all have our own world filters, derived from our world experience and we can only see the world as we are at that point in time. Fortunately, errors in these scenarios did not become compounded, as they often can in a school setting, when (groups of) parents become involved too.
The truth is that I ran my school with three rules;
- Be responsible for yourself
- Be responsible for the way you treat others
- Be responsible for the way you look after the school and the locality
And the truth is, as a result, in a sixteen year headship, I excluded only two children for extreme behaviour. Equally, I know that it won’t be the same for everyone.
The real truth is that I am still learning and would do things differently now than I did when I started. Our decisions do change over time. I’m a little more grown up now, but only a little. Life will offer more opportunities for reflection.
Maturity comes with reflection.