Summarised by Neil Gaiman in ‘Good Omens’, “The things that really change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
Having become inspired during my Emotional Logic Facilitator training, by learning a little about how chaos theory underpins Emotional Logic’s approach, I was keen to explore the Butterfly Effect in action in my school. I am privileged to meet with groups of teaching assistants on a weekly basis as part of their continuing professional development, and we are currently focusing on embedding our new ‘Relational Approach to Behaviour’ policy. This is a long-term project, requiring significant shifts in staff knowledge, understanding and skills in order to radically change how we support children in school. The new approach requires from all staff a great deal of hard work, reflection and deliberate action. Seeing the benefits of a policy change takes time, and I had become worried about losing staff commitment to the policy.
I was keen to show staff that their application of the new policy was already making a difference and suggested a ‘challenge’ for them to report back on the following week. I mentioned the Butterfly Effect and said that, although I didn’t know what the results would be, I anticipated that they would be more significant that we might expect at first.
Choose a child who you don’t typically have much contact with
Commit to spending 2 minutes every day for a week talking to this child about their interests.
Each day, tell another child in the class something interesting about the child you have been speaking with.
Come back to our meeting next week ready to tell us about any change or impact you have seen.
Staff were keen to report back on the impact of the challenge and were equally keen to continue it for the next week. Some wanted to continue with the same child, to further build a safe relationship, others decided to try other children. Comments below are a sample of those given by the group.
‘I was surprised how it made ME feel really good. He became more animated, really happy to talk and tell me things. I already feel I know him much better.’
‘I only managed to start one conversation myself, but x looked for me in the week for support and had never done this before.’
‘Mum has been poorly this week so x needed more support. She likes art so we made a card for Mummy and started a drawing book. Now she is asking for drawing each day and has asked for cuddles when she was upset’ (New behaviour despite TA being in same class for two years).
‘Once he started talking, he didn’t stop!’ ‘He’s already seeking out other adults to say, ‘Can I tell you something?’ and there’s been a huge positive impact on his separation from mum and dad in the mornings.’
‘I’m already finding it easier to bring him in from the playground when he doesn’t want to come back in. He’s happy to walk with me while we talk.’
‘She’s approaching me AND other adults in class now to start conversations.’
‘I’ve noticed that more children are talking to me in the playground. I think it’s because they saw that x’s relationship with me was good and now they see me as a safe person.’
‘I actually felt honoured because he came to ask for my help’.
One child said, ‘I’m suing every adult in this school! Except YOU’. Following two weeks of the challenge, the same child told a visiting advisor: ‘The best thing about this school is how kind all the adults are. I give it a 7 out of 10. I’d give it a 10 if we got longer playtimes’.
I was interested to find out that three different staff members had chosen to focus on this child in the second week. What a difference this had made to how he felt about himself, adults and the school!
The effects of this very small butterfly’s wings are already proving to be very positive. I have regained my confidence in staff commitment to the policy and staff can see clear evidence of their own impact on children. I can only begin to imagine the transformation in the lives of our children, staff and community, that is going to continue as we embed our policy further.
If you want to find out more about this project or how we can help you, please contact us today.