Podcast: Effective Strategies for Culture Change in the Classroom

Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

You can’t judge a student by his report card. Just ask Paul Dix.

It remains noticeable that even if he is not positively disruptive, the atmosphere and the set is more amenable when he is absent than when he is present.”
A teacher left this acerbic conclusion on Paul Dix’s report card when he was 14 years old. It’s just one excerpt from an anthology of sick burns lavished on his permanent record by similarly droll disciplinarians. (Other greatest hits include: “Paul has been a challenging pupil to all who have encountered him,” and, more simply, “I have failed with this boy.”)
Going by these reports, one might never guess that Dix would go on to devote his life to education—especially the cultivation of positive and constructive behavior management in schools. But as it turns out, he loves a challenge.
“My career is a string of people telling me I can’t do something, and then, finding myself just utterly determined to prove them wrong.”

Are you ready to spark a seismic shift in school behavior?

Paul Dix’s conversation with Unrestrained host Terry Vittone starts with recounting the moment that he decided to leave the classroom—with the goal of returning with a plan to make it a safer and more caring environment for students and teachers. With his years of experience as a teacher and trainer, he knew what was missing—a restorative approach to behavior management that empowered teachers, enriched students, and enhanced school culture.
He also knew, rather personally, what a difference it makes when you take the time to acknowledge a student’s good behavior in writing. (But you’ll hear more about that in the episode.)
If you’re perplexed by the ongoing issues of disruptive and challenging behavior in schools, this interview is an exciting window into a time-tested approach to making a constructive difference in the dynamics between adults and children. Through his organization, Pivotal Education, Dix has experienced tremendous success implementing restorative behavior management strategies in schools, collaborating with thousands of educators internationally.
His vision is one in which children and adults collaborate effectively to make the most of the learning experience, and he shares how students and instructors can unlock optimal outcomes without the use of punitive measures or traumatic interventions like forceful restraint and seclusion.
The secret, as it turns out, involves something we at CPI call the Integrated Experience. Realizing that in any encounter with another person, the only behavior we can truly control is our own, what choices can we make to engineer an optimal outcome?

The Pivotal Education approach brings heart and humanity to the best practices of behavior management.

“We don’t come into schools and say, ‘Just throw away all your punishment.’ What we do is we change the practice in classrooms so that those large punishments are no longer needed. And a couple of years down the line, the teachers say the same thing. They say, ‘Why did we ever think that holding children for hours and hours and making them do punitive punishments was going to work? You know, we don’t need to do that.’”
With wit, heart, and humanity, Paul Dix is on a mission to empower adults to find the best in children and truly nurture their potential. His own experience, as a student whose teachers questioned his potential to succeed, is exemplary of the possibility that each of us can grow and flourish with the right kind of constructive support. His vision is one of a long-overdue culture change, and his work demonstrates that this change is possible—one need look no further than the hundreds of testimonials gathered from educators who have transformed their behavior management approach through Pivotal Education training.

This fascinating and inspiring conversation between Paul Dix and host Terry Vittone is perfect back-to-school listening for educators who are looking to position their students, and themselves, for a successful school year. It’s a funny and fact-filled dive into the challenges of behavior management that will energize you to look at your interactions with children in a new and hopeful light.

Listeners can score a free training takeaway: master The 30 Second Intervention.

In addition to getting Paul’s insights for better interpreting challenging behaviors, you’ll definitely want to grab the free resource our friends at Pivotal Education were kind enough to share. In my interview with Paul Dix you'll learn how The 30 Second Intervention will help you:

  • Have productive conversations with angry students at the point of crisis.
  • Send a carefully planned, clear, and effective message before the situation escalates.
  • Make your classroom more predictable, stable, and productive.

Guest Biography

Despite one teacher’s claim that at age 12, he remained a “slyly subversive influence,” Paul Dix has grown up to be positive and powerful force for meaningful culture change in the world of education. His many attempts to sabotage his own early education ultimately failed: he successfully completed his studies at Homerton College, Cambridge, and has gone on to work with some of the most challenging behaviors in some of the most challenging environments like urban schools, youth facilities, and colleges. In addition to founding and directing Pivotal Education, he’s also the author of When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour, and the co-host of the Pivotal Podcast, which provides free training to more than 250,000 teachers each week.

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