Transforming education with love

This blog post will be short as its purpose is to highlight and recommend this article for reading, pondering and digesting. Briefly Lincoln high school in Walla Walla has reduced school suspensions by 85% by developing a new approach to discipline and punishment. They have come to realise that kids blow up and misbehave because of other things going on in their lives and so instead of yelling at them or sending them home, they are taking time to find out what’s behind the child’s blow up and teaching them new ways to deal with situations and strong emotions.

The teachers have 2 main principles or rules they follow –

1) when a student blows up, don’t take it personally and
2) Don’t mirror the kid’s behaviour, breathe, wait for the storm to pass and ask them questions to find out what’s going on, in a gentle way.

They have in-school suspension that gives the student a chance to reflect on their behaviour and to discuss any issues with a member of staff. Consequences still exist for misbehaviour but they help the students to develop ways to cope with their emotions rather than punishing them.  Most of all the students feel met, listened to and cared for – often far more than they are receiving at home. Indeed, as the article points out, it is this unconditional love that the teachers have for the students that makes the difference – their willingness to be there for them and to see them as much more than troubled cases. Thus they have found that this approach only works when the teachers involved are willing and open to embrace it and live it and put it into practice.

There is much contained within this article including the effect of childhood trauma on long term health and emotional wellbeing as well as the impact of the new approach to discipline in the school. The former is the detrimental consequences of lovelessness and the latter is the healing consequences of love in expression. How amazing would it be if educationalists in all fields realised the true potential of this ‘new approach’ to transform education and the traditional punishment approach – which ultimately just reinforces the types of behaviour it is trying to prevent! This one school has dramatically reduced its rates of expulsion by making simple changes in how they manage these problems – with profound  results not just for  the statistical figures but to the actual lives and hopes of the students they are teaching.

The fact that ‘love heals’ is an age old wisdom but one that is all too often dismissed and ignored as being some new age fluffy woo woo idea or concept that has no basis in reality or in a scientific world. Yet here it is being lived and practiced and is transforming and healing the lives of students in many ways that are not yet fully realised and providing practical evidence for the doubters that Love does heal.


  • Reply
    Felicity Latchford
    4th February 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Its wonderful that Lincoln High School decided to adopt this approach. It has obviously impacted the students for the better. it makes sense that poor behaviour usually comes from earlier negative experiences. If communication is open and respectful, this has the best chance of allowing the issues to be addressed.

  • Reply
    5th October 2018 at 6:07 am

    Love, heals and yet is often the missing ingredient in our relationships with others. Lincoln High School’s work is remarkable because it seeks to love and understand the person and not simply react to behaviour. I love the practice of in-school detentions for students to sit, reflect and express what happened. I’m sure it offers them a rare moment of pause in their lives. I observe similar parallels in care work and often question the practice of moving carers on when they encounter ‘difficulties’ with clients, because it doesn’t allow them space to reflect on what happened and how they may have contributed to what happened. For example, when things go awry, not taking things personally is a big one for us to understand. Supporting carers to learn from experience rather than ignore or blame is the much preferred way.

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