A Strategy for Change

By Sandra Arnold

“I do understand your concern,” The principal said. “These incidents can be challenging.”

“The little shit beat up my daughter again. What are you going to do about it?”

“We’re dealing with it, Mrs. Trulove. We’ve asked Dax to fill out a think page where he can reflect on his behaviour and the impact it has had on Sophie. And the counselor is supporting him in his efforts to effect change.”

“You’ve got to be bloody joking! The little sod’s a bully and needs stopping!”

“We don’t have bullying in this school, Mrs. Trulove. These recent few incidents have involved a minority of young children with behavioural issues. When they exhibit challenging behaviours we put strategies in place to support them to respond more appropriately.”

“The little bastard punched her in the face. He stomped on her hands. He kicked her in the belly. She cries every morning when I take her to school. Where are you lot when he goes rampaging around the playground?”

“There’ll always be the odd playground scuffle, Mrs. Trulove. The teachers can’t be everywhere at once.”

“I want the little thug excluded this time!”

“Education is for all children, Mrs. Trulove. Even those with behavioural challenges.”

“The little sod needs a good wack with a leather belt.”

The Principal brought the tips of his fingers together under his chin and closed his eyes. “Mrs. Trulove, as I’m sure you’re aware, we live in a more enlightened age now. We don’t hit children anymore.”

“No. You give them a bloody think page and let them carry on terrorising!”

“Mrs. Trulove, please be assured we are doing everything possible to maintain a learning environment where all our children feel valued, supported and safe.”

”Yeah. Right. Well you can stuff your think pages and your safe learning environment! If you won’t take action, I will!”

The sound of the slamming door left his ears ringing. The third that day. He closed his eyes then reached into his desk drawer for the Panadol and  lavender oil. His secretary said a dab on each wrist was good for alleviating stress.  He had fifteen minutes before the next parent. He’d better call a meeting after school. He had a feeling some of these parents would go to the media this time. He needed to formulate a response. He needed to do something about that door.

At hometime she told Sophie to get in the car and wait.  When Dax came out she stepped forward to block his path.

On the way home Sophie asked what she’d said to Dax to make him run off like that.

“Oh I told him what we had in our freezer in the cellar.”

“But we don’t have a freezer. Or a cellar.’

“No. But he doesn’t know that.”

“What did you say was in it?”

“Put it this way. It  helped him reflect on his behavioural challenges in a way that would  affect immediate change.”


“He won’t hit you again.”

Sandra Arnold is a New Zealand novelist, short story and non-fiction writer with a PhD in Creative Writing. Her work has been widely published and anthologised and has won and been short-listed in several literary awards.

1 thought on “A Strategy for Change”

  1. Filling out the rethink page while inside the freezer would surely be a compromise between political correctness and the ‘what works’ school of consequence.

    Plain to see this story was written by a person who knows schools and how they act and speak.

    Well done.

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