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Storm Clouds and Sunshine

Let me paint the picture for you.

You wake up and go to work as usual and head to the staff room, grab a coffee and chat with colleagues whilst you wait for the day to commence, suddenly your boss walks through the staff room and shouts your name.

“Jen! This work is not good enough, I’ve told you countless times to pay more attention to what I tell you…AND, once AGAIN I have seen you chatting for far longer than is acceptable outside the toilets!”

The whole room stops, it’s silent accept you are sure everyone in the room can hear your heart beating as it feels like it’s pumping out of your chest.

“Your name is going to sit on this storm cloud in the room until you can show me you can improve. You MUST do better than this!”

Your boss then walks over to the dreaded wall and puts your name up for everyone to see your mistake. Everyone in the room now and anyone who comes into the room will see your mistake on the wall.

You feel sick.

You feel like you’re turning a hundred different shades of red.

Your eyes sting; you don’t want to cry.

Your mouth feels dry, your fists clench, your face tenses.

Your boss then walks over to the kettle and makes herself a coffee, slowly activity in the room resumes but for you it feels like it’s stood still.

You want to go home.

You don’t feel safe.

You feel ashamed.

You feel guilty.

You feel embarrassed.

You go to your desk and try and get on with the work you know you must get done today, but however hard you try you can’t concentrate. You feel sick and all the shame, guilt and embarrassment stops you from being able to focus. You feel scared because you are so desperate to get your name, your mistake, off the wall and you're scared that if you don’t complete the task you need to quickly enough, or well enough, that the same thing will happen again. Someone is trying to talk to you, explain something, but all you can concentrate on is the way your stomach feels like a washing machine, whirring round and round.

You want to go home.

You want to disappear.

You want to climb into bed and duck your head under the covers to hide away from the rest of the world.

You don’t want to be seen.

Whenever you walk past the storm cloud you are reminded of your mistake, you see other colleagues names on the sunshine and feel inadequate, a failure. You feel STUPID.

Finally, you can go home.

Finally, you feel safe.

Suddenly you remember one thing, you must go back tomorrow. Now you don’t want to go back, back to face everyone, you’re scared that you will make another mistake and may go through the whole experience again.

The thing is, you were really trying. You shouldn’t have been talking for too long, but you’d had a difficult night looking after your poorly Mum, you tried to self-regulate by talking about it, but you knew it wasn’t really the right time. You knew that your work could have been better, but you were worried about your mum. You were also nervous about lunchtime as a few colleagues hadn’t included you in their conversation the day before, you’d felt left out and lonely. All of this made it difficult to focus and led to you making that stupid mistake.

You feel so STUPID.

You should have tried HARDER.

Now imagine that you are a child.

Imagine that you are a child whose part of the brain responsible for impulse control, judgement and regulating emotions is still developing and Imagine how HARD that makes school.

BE what you want ME to BE.

Treat ME as YOU would wish to BE treated.

I am a child.

EDIT - This post is looking at the extreme version of approaching this strategy for behaviour management but even when we use this alongside Emotional Literacy strategies it still causes public shame and embarrassment. Shame and embarrassment never makes anything better. There are so many more strategies that do not add shame and that help to draw a line under a mistake when it’s been processed and discussed (in a way that doesn’t cause public embarrassment). Now that we have all this wonderful research and understanding it’s time to utilise it. We can never know all circumstances surrounding each pupil. In many schools I’ve visited and raised this with they tell me it’s mostly the same group of children’s names that make their way onto the sad side, which to me demonstrates how this doesn’t even work anyway.

I have worked with children who have needed their self esteem boosting after having being subjected to this; even in an early years setting - these children thought themselves as bad. It needs to stop.

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