PBIS, Reflections of Implementation

pbis reflectionsIn our second year of implementing a school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions of Support (PBIS), the growing pains and kick back seems less than when implementing the Response to Interventions (RTI) framework for the academic side of the pyramid.  More than likely a reflection of the direct pressure teacher’s face when evaluated and tied to their academic data.  Additionally, it may be that RTI lead the way and teachers were more receptive to the tiered framework the second time around.

Feedback and reflection are critical as tiered systems move forward.  Without stakeholder buy-in progress cannot be made.  Looking at the feedback after each year of implementation, the second year reveals comments and questions more specified and embedded in the philosophy.  Whereas in the first year, the comments held a wide scope and questioned the intentions and corrections of PBIS.  In the second year, it was interesting and rewarding to see more suggestive comments, questions and feedback about particular programs implemented, and more “we” concerns.

For a third year implementation increasing stakeholder buy-in means we need more connections.  Steps for next year:

  1. Increase Subcommittees – the subcommittees need to take on a more active role. Furthermore, the role must be visible to the entire faculty. Taking the PBIS committee out of the picture sometimes so that a particular subcommittee can shine widening the appearance of participation of faculty.
  2. Focus on Clear Objectives – as the tiers have been assembled and the framework laid, the potential now must be harnessed. Creating a clear and smart objective for the school moving forward will place resources and intentions on the most crucial aspects of continuing to build the framework. For our school, we are continuing to grow the tier 1 supports. We have reviewed data, and determined the number one behavior needing support. This in-turn will guide all programs for all tiers to support this behavior and meet our objective. How we measure this goal in-turn guides the interventions we implement.
  3. Building Community Ties – the PBIS framework has been implemented. Its frame is now visible. The community of parents and businesses now must be introduced more formally to the framework and their support requested. For our school we hope a PTA liaison will bring the parents resources into the picture helping to support many programs with incentives. As we increase the incentives, such as in-school fundraising events and token system and a school run store we hope to have their resources and support to further these programs.

We are still in the infant stage of implementing school-wide PBIS.  Our progress has been steady.  Thoughtfully reigning in our direction and objectives is our best offense going into the third season.


TOP 10: What Questions Teachers Need to Ask Themselves

top10reflectionWhen dealing with difficult students, teachers can reach their frustration mark very easily.  However, what we know, is that as teachers we can only change our behaviors.  As we head into the new year, remember to ask yourself some reflective questions regarding that difficult student, or even a difficult class.  Here are the top 10 questions you can post somewhere by your desk to help in that moment when you are frustrated, be reflective instead.

  1. Can I offer up alternative solution/environment/seating/activity?
  2. Can I offer academic support?
  3. Can I reteach the desired behavior?
  4. Can I meet with student and discuss?
  5. Can I meet with student and parent?
  6. Can I devise a self-monitoring plan or behavior checklist for that student?
  7. What are the planned incentives for students in my classroom?
  8. What are the planned consequences for students in my classroom?
  9. Are these consistent?
  10. Can the students state these to someone?

Top 10 Classroom Management Reminders for that Difficult Student

  1. top 10Greet student, use student name, offer them a positive comment when entering class
  2. Actively listen to the student, acknowledge you hear them and their feelings
  3. Remain outside of the conflict and focused on solutions
  4. Use student’s name when redirecting
  5. Give specific choices
  6. Be non-threatening, use calm response
  7. Make eye-contact, but do not stare down the student
  8. Teach the expectations
  9. Teach the replacement behavior you would like to see
  10. Spend a few minutes a day with the most difficult student

Seriously, Are we that bogged down by what those above us have created?

It seems

Legislation to Leave Children Behind

It seems like everywhere I turn, everyone who is speaking, everyone who is out there mentioning anything about education; seems to want change. Are we that bogged down by legislation and logistics that we can’t be professionals and actually make changes. That policy makers make decisions based on parent, student, teacher feedback. Are they not the stakeholders that the claim is to uphold? One person cannot make the change, however it seems to me there are a lot more than one complaining every day about what our children are learning and what they are being forced to test.



What Happens when the Student is Never Enough?

Do you ever feel like you can do nothing right?  Does a person ever make you feel that way?  It is awful.  Defeating.  I want to just crawl into bed and give up.  I want to run away.  I will escape, avoid, flee.  Whatever my tactic, I don’t want to feel like I am incapable.
Imagine a student with a learning disability or an inattentive, hyperactive tendency.  Diagnosis or not.  That student plopped down into a modern day classroom for the No Child Left Behind Era feels like that minute to minute.  They are tested and retested, they are required to move at legislated pacing guides, and are required to perform tasks that demonstrate growth so their teacher can say they aren’t useless.  The lessons become less engaged, they are seated and spoken to, they are inundated with dry learning.  And they struggle.  Daily.  Minute by minute in that environment.  What they need, isn’t being offered, because teachers are being legislated to show scores versus teaching quality teaching strategies.
What happens when a student feels like they can do nothing right?  When every moment isn’t a possibility for success, but of failure.  When they are constantly being told what to  do, how to do it, and then woops, you didn’t do it well enough?  They shut down.  They too want to crawl into bed and give up.  They want to run away.  They will escape, avoid, flee.  Whatever their tactic, that’s where they go.
As educators, we see it all the time.  It may be so prevalent one may not even see it.  They are the quietly withdrawn hiding and slinking further away from success.  Or they are the defiant and active student externalizing the feeling of failure and looking for the system to discipline them out.  All escape artists.
We cannot change the system today, but we can change how our students feel.
  1. Let them know the system doesn’t teach to all students and they are not alone.
  2. Let them know the real world doesn’t expect the same skill set that the NCLB classroom does.
  3. Praise their behaviors.  Praise their successes, even when they look differently than peers, they are valid and they are successful.
  4. Offer them alternatives to paper and pencil.  Take two minutes to hear about their interests.  Then use that in class. Even if its simple, it validates they matter.
  5. Tell them you understand.   Tell them you once felt that way too.  Tell them, its not a feeling they have to take.  They can stand up and look that feeling in the eye and say, “You know what? So what school isn’t my thing right now.  It might be tomorrow, it might be never.  But I know I am valuable, and finishing school is just as valuable.”
  6. Whatever you do, make the effort to counter the effects of the modern day classroom and that feeling students often have when they don’t live up to the standards.  They are enough, and they are worthy.

Middle School Student and Classroom Rewards

goodjobthumbnailSomewhere between the elementary and middle school grades teachers seem to stop rewarding their students’ for good behaviors.  Whereas it is common in the lower grade levels to see a bulletin board decorated with students’ name, color coded successes, and various rewards they will earn as a class or individually…these quietly fall away as students pass into upper grade levels.  This shouldn’t cease just because the students are a bit older.  If anything the need is even greater.  The students are faced with many more classroom management routines as they switch classes and teachers, which also yields less time and therefore less connections between the teacher and student. Not to mention the peer influences have an even greater pull in middle school.

As a middle school, exceptional ed teacher I use a positive reward system in my classroom.  Additionally, I have a behavior management system that provides planned consequences for undesired behaviors.  However, oftentimes that system is not implemented since the positive reward system seems to do the trick and curb unwanted behaviors.  The biggest issue for classroom teachers; is the question, what do middle schoolers want as a reward?  It turns out not much.  Here are some ideas to be used class wide, in special agreement with a particular student, or for a specific event or an especially hectic day/activity.

  1. Mystery student: Offer a class wide reward of something simple such as candy, free homework pass, or a 15 minute social at the end of a week based on the behavior of only one student in the class. However, the identity remains a mystery to the class. I like to pick a student from my raffle jug (more to come on that in #8).  I keep the identity a secret and then at the end of the class or time period, I announce the student’s name and give the class wide reward.  If the student did not earn the reward for the class, I keep their identity secret, put the card back in the raffle jug and no reward is given to anyone.  This works to acknowledge one student in particular, provides cooperation and collaboration between students, and adds some positive peer pressure regarding behaviors.
  2. Mystery trash:  I like to play this at the end of the day/week.  Since we are on a block schedule I can do this Thursday and Friday with the last block of the day.  On other occasions, as I see the classroom needs it or after a busy “project day” I will play this game in an earlier class block.  First I secretly identify a piece of trash somewhere in the room, “the mystery trash.”  Then I give the student 5 minutes to pick up trash without speaking.  If they speak, they sit down.  Then after the 5 minutes (or after the classroom looks fantastic) I announce which student picked up the piece of mystery trash.  That student gets a reward.  Remember to keep your eye on the piece of trash without giving it away, and know the students will want to know in detail what the mystery trash was.
  3. Collect silly stickers:  Yep, middle schoolers will work really hard to collect stickers.  In my room, students have a reward card.  At any given time during class, I give stickers to students that they collect on their MARCH Madness card.  (Our school wide PBIS behavior matrix is based on 3 behavior expectations and the acronym MARCH). This may be for behavior, work ethic, or kindness shown.  After the student has 10 stickers, they turn in their reward card with the item they would like selected circled.  Items listed include; music during independent work, free homework pass, extra points on quiz or test, or to sit in the swirly chair.  These cards are useful later, so it doesn’t just stop there.
  4. Sit in the fuzzy, swirly chair: You really need a special something to sit on or unique place in your classroom that students can earn as a reward.  I have an extremely old and basically unwanted teacher chair in my classroom that is practically vintage.  Somehow, regardless of the mix of students they all always want that chair.  So it is part of my reward system.  Students will work ridiculously hard to get those 10 stickers as this is an item on their card.  I also do random rewards, and pick a student from my raffle jug to give out this reward.  It always amazes me when the “tough guy” kid that is bigger than me is excited to sit in an old, fuzzy, swirly chair from 1967 and will even excitedly volunteer to wipe tables in the cafeteria to earn a sticker!
  5. Let them be the scribe:  I use my raffle jug, to be discussed later…to select students for various duties in the classroom.  One job they enjoy is scribe.  That student can help with writing on the board, under the document camera, and erasing it as needed.  This reward works great for the student with inattentive and hyperactive tendencies since it keeps them moving and focused.
  6. Be the messenger:  Again using my raffle jug, I select a student to be the class messenger.  They will hand back ungraded work, pass out papers or supplies, and take any needed items to another room.  This too is a great task to assign a student that struggles in a long 90 minute block.  (Occasionally, I may select a raffle card from the jug specifically with one student in mind and act out this process sneakily).
  7. Homework Free Challenge:  Besides earning a homework pass in other reward systems, I will offer a challenge to the students as a class.  If there is an especially demanding day, a substitute teacher, or perhaps an assembly…I will let the students know ahead of time that the entire class will earn a homework free day/week if less than 3-5 warnings are given to the class. That means, no more than the designated number of warnings for any student for the entire class. If possible, I will let the class know when the number of warnings is creeping up….but I do not do so by singling out a student.
  8. Raffle jug:  This came about randomly. I was saving the behavior reward cards figuring it was interesting data and that the cumulative of many reward cards might be useful someday.  Now I plop them all in a raffle jug, per class block. I use the raffle jug in planned and spontaneous ways.  Sometimes I just need a student for a one-time task whereas other times it is used to give a planned reward as stated above.  Either way, the raffle jug works great.  I collect the students reward cards after they have earned 10 stickers, give the reward they circled, sign the card and throw it in the jug.  Then I use the cards as needed to select a student and offer a reward.  Students really want to have as many cards in the raffle jug as possible, so earning the stickers has an added incentive. It doesn’t take the students long to realize the more cards the better their chances in the raffle. I use the raffle jug every Friday, and as needed to help boost desired behaviors, and/or pick a student fairly.

Don’t make them grow up too fast, enjoy the festivities, and be silly.  They need it just as much as we do!



Discipline: The Forefront of Reform

discplinereformSchool discipline is in the forefront of current reform. Our need to alter our perspective and practices is evidenced by the widening gaps between students of diversity and students with disabilities when comparing them with their general education peers. Schools are moving away from traditional discipline and finding superior practices in instructional discipline. This is direct response to students graduating ill-prepared for the workforce and the gaps of achievement and discipline statistics (Riddell, 2010).

IDEA 97 was the first legislation that sought to protect students with disabilities from the processes and policies associated with behaviors and discipline. It mandated that students with disabilities could not be removed from school for a behavior that was a manifestation of their disability. Though this initially had its challenges, further mandates clarifying specifics in IDEA 2004 and the encouragement of all schools to move toward a positive and instructive discipline model have help create a more balanced and logical system for discipline with the exceptional education realm (Byrne, 2013).

Schools that promote the positive behavior intervention systems and seek to work from a proactive and instructional discipline perspective do not see a rise in incidents from students with disabilities. Rather all students can benefit. Best practices in the classroom with clear expectations, followed by school wide behavior expectations taught and retaught, supported by positive reinforcement and planned consequences target the entire student population. Furthermore, students with disabilities that are more often demonstrating undesirable behaviors benefit through the repetition and consistency. Within the instructional discipline realm, misbehaviors are seen as teachable moments (Denti, 2014). Collaboration and reflection between teachers, students, and families builds an entire community platform rather than isolating those that repeatedly misbehave. The argument by Adelman and Taylor confirms this stance indicating that behavior problems are not to be dismissed; suspended or expelled. Our goal as educators is to impress academics along with positive social and emotional training (2008).

As a special education teacher, I know students that struggle with academics often disengage. Adelman and Taylor note that students that are disengaged then misbehave. Students with learning problems are therefore more likely to leave school early (2008). Repeated issues with discipline by students with disabilities does indeed affect school wide practices. However, school wide practices can alternatively affect the behaviors of students with disabilities.

Maintaining positive relationships, engaging lessons, with appropriate supports are essential for the student with disabilities. Many districts are moving toward tiered systems of support for not only academics, but also behaviors. Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) allow all students to access behavior supports based on their individual needs. Many access the interventions at the school wide tier with comprehensive and positive reinforcements and the explicit teaching of desired expectations. Following tiers involve planned consequences, grouped reinforcement programs, and added incentives to draw out desired behaviors from students with a larger quantity of behavior issues. The third tier offers behavior assessments, discussing the function of an individual’s behavior and a team unified in developing a plan of reinforcements and consequences that work for the student. This is not necessarily a student with a disability, it’s a program for school wide discipline that is highly impacted by the disengaged, often troubled students with disabilities.

Luke 6:40 “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is full trained will be like his teacher” (New International Version). This is fitting in regard to discipline, reminding us it is a teaching moment. Those we teach explicitly, those we reteach, and remain positive and supportive will more than likely come to the table instead of rebelling against. Relationships in discipline are far more influential than the actual setting of rules.


Adleman, H. and Taylor, L. (2008). Rethinking how schools address student misbehavior and disengagement.. Addressing Barriers to Learning, vol. 13, no 2.

Byrnes, M. (2013). Taking sides: Clashing views in special education (6th ed.). New York, NY: Contemporary Books, Inc. ISBN: 9780078050480.

Denti, L., & Guerin, G. (2014). Positive DISCIPLINE. Leadership, 43(5), 26-38. Retrieved from Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 14, 2015).

Riddell, S. (2010). Positively rewarding: Behavior program aids schools in big way. Kentucky Teacher, 11. Retrieved from Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 14, 2015).


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