8. One-up: One-down

Lesson powerpoint here


  • To understand how the ‘OK Corral’ works and how our position on the OK Corral affects how we deal with people.
  • To experiment with a hypothetical case study (Pupil X) to see how adopting the ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’ position can affect how we respond to others.

1. Debating: a zero-sum game.

  • Play pupils the video of David Starkey’s argument with Laurie Penny at EdFest during a debate about Britishness.
  • Ask pupils the questions on the slide and focus on the question about what is really going on in this exchange. Debate should be about an attempt to get to truth and make progress through reasoned argument: pupils might like to focus on how both Starkey and Penny are avoiding the truth/the debate by making personal (ad hominem) remarks about each other to discredit their comments.
  • Introduce the pupils to the ideas of being One-up and One-down and the ‘OK Corral’: the diagram which shows the 4 life positions of One-up, One-down, Hopeless and Healthy. Ask them to identify where Starkey and Penny found themselves during that debate and how/if their positions change during it.

2. Pupil X is in a pickle.

  • Ask pupils to read about Pupil X’s situation on the slide.
  • Ask them for their initial thoughts on the situation.
  • Ask the pupils to work in groups of about 3. Ask them to think first about Pupil X and then Pupil X’s teachers and decide what might be making them feel One-down and why this is: e.g. the teachers might feel one-down because they think Pupil X has conspired against them to help another pupil get away without doing their work. This might undermine their needs for trust, fairness and perhaps control. Explain that when we think our needs aren’t being met, this provokes some powerful emotions, which in turn drive our speech and actions.
  • Point out that people don’t like the feeling of being One-down. If they are in the ‘I’m not OK, you’re OK’ position, they will want to get away from the situation or do something to get One-up again; if they are in the ‘I’m not OK, you’re not OK’ position, they will feel helpless and want to give up.
  • Ask the pupils (again in small groups) to think about what Pupil X and Pupil X’s teachers might do, or already be doing to try to get into the One-up position (‘I’m OK, you’re not OK.’) and how these courses of action might get them there.
  • Discuss what the pupils have come up with as a whole group.
  • Hopefully the pupils have realised that once we get into a game of One-up – One-down, we go round in circles, harbour resentments and don’t actually resolve the conflict.

3. ‘I’m OK: You’re OK.’

  • Ask the pupils, again in small groups, to think about what needs to change for Pupil X and the teachers to get into the ‘healthy position’ of ‘I’m OK, you’re OK.’ There is a slide with some prompting questions on it and a slide with a diagram of universal human needs to help with some of the questions.
  • Ask the class to consider the final question on the slide as a group: if Pupil X and the teachers had been in the ‘I’m OK, you’re OK’ position from the start, how would this situation have played out?