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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds It’s parenting. And on this parents evening, I see some of you come through the door. Sean’s mom– you know Sean’s mom. She don’t come to parenting evenings. She don’t even answer the phone or answer the door, Sean’s mom. And yet here she is. And it’s year nine parent’s evening. And there’s Sean’s mom, and I know why she’s here. I know why she’s here because it’s the last chance for Sean– choose the right GCSEs. Do something with your life, Sean. You know Sean. And I see every member of staff sitting around the hall, going deep into their bag and bringing out their Sean file. And they’re waiting.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds I see them waiting for Sean’s mom to come, so that they can tell Sean’s mom just how bad Sean is. But Sean’s mom knows that. She lives with him. She knows that story. And I watch her, and I see her go from table to table to table. And each time they tell her the same stuff. I mean, I wish I could tell you I have magic dust for Sean, but it’s the same for me. When he does come in, I’m not really sure I want him there anyway. You know Sean. And I see her coming, and I think, what do I do? I mean, I’ve got a Sean file.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds I could tell her the same stuff that every member of staff is telling her. But I can’t do it. I can’t do it. So I lie to Sean’s mom. I lie to her. Well, I concentrate on one morning, one lesson where he did engage, one time where he really did do what he meant to do. And I watch her, and she listens. And she doesn’t say much. And she goes.

Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds The next morning Sean’s in school, right? He’s looking for me. He’s looking for me. He goes right up in my face. “What did you tell my mum that for? Don’t you ever tell my mom anything like that ever again!” And he’s gone. Later that afternoon, I had [INAUDIBLE] working for me. [INAUDIBLE] He’s got his options forms. He says to me, Mr. Diggs, congratulations. Sean has chosen your subject for GCSE. Oh, what have I done? What have I done? And it’s hard, right? Because he comes sometimes and he leaves sometimes. I’d like to tell you that I’ve developed a magic potion to turn Sean around. No I didn’t. I mean, the other children helped him out.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds They covered up from when he was away. They helped him catch up when he wasn’t there. It wasn’t just me, but all of us together, over two years. We get to the end, and you know this story. Sean gets a C. And to people outside of education, he’s failed. But you know what that means to Sean. He gets a C, and he uses his C grade to get into a college, to on to a course. And five years ago I saw Sean. He works as a theater manager. As a theater manager– Sean. You wouldn’t believe it. So it must of been that I found the diamond in the rough, right? I found a little– no. No I didn’t.

Skip to 3 minutes and 28 seconds I had no idea what Sean wanted out of his life and neither did he. All I did was I stuck a hook in him. I said, come with me. Because being good at something, even if you change direction, being going at something is transferable skill. That feeling– that feeling you’re wanted, that feeling that you belong, that little hook, come with me.


Watch the video in which Paul talks about one really hard to reach student and how he started to reach him.

Video Summary

Parents’ evenings can be a watershed for you, your students and parents like Sean’s Mum.

It can be a time of honest and sincere evaluation with her, hopefully a sensible discussion. When Sean’s Mum arrives home, hopefully she will have a sensible conversation with Sean, but maybe she won’t. The tone of that conversation will definitely be influenced by the words you, as Sean’s teacher, choose to use.

Sean’s Mum is used to having little positive contact with school because she knows the story; the same story every time the phone rings and the same story she hears at every table at every parents’ evening. Except that on this particular evening you choose to say something different. You choose a different path and a different conversation. You don’t lie but you don’t tell the whole story. You are purposely selective. You select the positive. You tell her about the one and only brief time when Sean did as he was asked; you remember it and so does he even though he never told his Mum when he got home.

When she got home she relayed that conversation to Sean. You don’t know now he responded to his Mum, but you do know that he was very unhappy with you the next day …

'What you tell my Mum that for?!  
Don't you ever tell my Mum anything like that ever again!'

But it’s all a smokescreen. He chooses your subject at GCSE level. The story unfolds and you and I know that Sean secretly likes you because you were one of those teachers who changed his story and influenced his new developing identity.

He gets help from you and his peers.

He gets his ‘C’ grade.

He goes to college.

He gets a job years later as a Theatre Manager.

It just needs one moment, one hook, one time when you walked up the stairs alongside him instead of trying to drag him up on the end of the long disciplinary rope.

Who can you put a hook into and say, ‘Come with me’?


What is your ‘Sean’s Story’? Think about a student who changed their behaviour, changed their direction and trajectory. What did you do to initiate and support this?

Please share your experiences via the comments below.

Please remember not to mention individuals, schools or other organisations by name. Please respect others’ confidentiality and privacy at all times.

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This video is from the free online course:

Managing Behaviour for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre