Author Archive | Making Education

Continually Trying, is the Least We Can Do

Special education, self-determination, self-advocacy,Working with students all having various degrees of trauma, you realize the complexity of its impact. There is no one formula for how trauma affects a person.  There is no one behavior that manifests. There is no one outcome for which treatment or intervention take hold.  Making a top down approach to behavioral or academic supports clearly misses the mark on effectiveness and efficiency.

However, teachers need this reminder.  In the midst of their daily chaos of teaching, they don’t recognize the manifestation of trauma, neglect, and abuse.  They simply are teaching.  Reminding a teacher to make the connection, take time to reflect, and always consider the why is something we all need regularly.

I recently came across a young client, with a horrid background of neglect and probable physical and sexual abuse.  Her adjustments to the new residential setting, was full of anger, tantrums, and violence.  However, during one moment of unstructured play, she picked up a play guitar, and began to sing and strum.  She stated she had never touched a guitar before, and yet she could at least make it sound like it went with her voice.  The rhythm and tone appropriate.  Her voice, everyone stopped to look.  Upon hearing this, I reached out to Amazon and purchased as many musically oriented toys and ukulele.  This may not be her start to actual musical education; however we are offering her something that may become a coping skill that is driven by what we noticed as a spark.  We all have something that sparks our interests, is our “God given” talent, and fulfills us regardless of extended efforts.  The child of neglect, the child of abuse, the child robbed of a nurturing environment may have not been exposed to their spark or has had no access to their spark.  What a way for an educator to make a connection.

According Advocate Health Care, 3.3 million cases of abuse are reported each year, and yet only 1 in 3 cases are in fact reported.  With abuse topping the list of scenarios resulting in trauma, there is no question it is far too prevalent in the classroom.  Another report indicates 60% of adults report experiencing abuse or family trauma during childhood (Mental Health Connection).  This all leads to the fact, that in our classrooms there are many children lost in trauma, missing out on their spark, and needing to find their inner coping skills.  Making the connections, listening to your students, understanding their behaviors do not define could lead to a life changing moment for the child.  To be heard, to have their spark recognized by others….these are huge moments in a scary, often sheltered small life.

I can’t say how our new little client will react to music as an addition to her life.  Will it help when she needs to find a coping skill during school?  Will it help when she is emotional dysregulated and cannot find her way back to calm? As said, there is no one intervention as there is no one child.  Continually trying, for every single child is simply the least we can do.


What if We Actually Catered to Them?

What if we didn't cling to school rules?Whether the child is battling trauma, mental  illness, or an emotional/behavior disorder; the request they participate in the traditional classroom setting is merely a set up for their own failure.  Traditionally, we place them in an environment where they cannot succeed, then further shame them for their lack of compliance and success, and provide consequence after consequence at no fault of their own.

What if, we provide an environment that goes with their grain, with plenty of access to their own choice for regulating emotions, working productively, and managing their behaviors.

  1. Flexible seating: Clear expectations and a variety of choices across many types of activities.
    • Allow students to pick a lap desk, podium, wobble stool, beach chair, floor rocker, or bobble cushion during any and all work times.
  2. Calming corner and tools: offer a place to go, self-regulate, or use in their space to quietly regroup.
    • Offer the arts, brain teasers, or doodles for older students. Quiet sensory objects, clay, cut up pool noodles, pipe cleaners, fidgets, coloring designs for others.  Engage a quiet voice for students where they can go and regroup solo practicing skills they need throughout their lives.
  3. Give up a few rules: Define a few expectations.  Then let go of the rest.  If a student has problem, messes up, arrives late, acts out; try waiting till after class and asking them how they are doing.  Try putting off the need for 100% compliance and show compassion.  They may have made a misstep this time, but with the correct and subsequent supports moving forward they will be less likely to do so again.

We are not in the business to police, dictate, or regulate.  We are the business of caring, supporting, and maybe a bit of guiding along the way.  What if we let go of school rules just a little bit, and actually catered to what they really need on the insides?


Positive Reinforcment 101

“I can live for two months on good compliment,” Mark Twain.

Mr. Twain’s quotes are often repeated in feel good reminders around the web. His positive attitude and thinking crosses cultures, generations, and situations. In the classroom, we are talking in “Twain” when we want to impress the importance of positivity, respect, and empathy. What’s the point of this in education today? We need to respect our students, build relationships, and hold them in esteem.

Being told what to do never feels good when you are on the receiving end…regardless of age, gender, or title. Besides the result is more keenly tied to the relationship with the person asking and the environment/situation; than the capacity to control another’s behavior. In the classroom, it leads to battles, misbehavior, loss of connection, and decreased student engagement. Learning, modeling, practicing, and reteaching positive reinforcement builds connections, student engagement, and desired behaviors. One key skill is how to rephrase a request into a positive framework.

Instead of “No hitting, not kicking!”  Try….

“Hitting/kicking hurts. I know you are upset, let’s find a coping skill together”

“Why are you doing that?”  Try….

“I need to hear only whisper volumes. That way we can all hear the story.” or “Let’s find something you and I can do together.” or “I need you to be safe. We can go sit and read or find a game to play, what would you choose?”

“Stop doing that!”  Try….

“Francis, remain in your seat and I will come and help you with that.” or “Francis, I need you to help us get ready so we can go outside. Can you help by putting your school papers away where they belong?”

“No yelling”  Try….

Speaking to another classmate that is on task “Thank you for remembering to be quiet during this activity. I like your inside voice, Francis.”

“Why” and “Should”

The implications are the student is wrong, it is riddled with shame and judgment. Do you really want to hear the why, which is an excuse or misguided reason? This coming on top of being told their behaviors are incorrect as well.

“You” Use “I” or “We” statements.

The word “You” singles a person out for negative behaviors. Try to use their name in positive praise only, and keep it behavior specific when doing so.


Say, “Please”

Use a pleasant tone, smile.

Recognize the desired behaviors.

Distract student during unwanted behaviors, unless necessary to address.

You cannot control a person’s behaviors. Distract, be positive, and specific. You can address behaviors later one on one when building a relationship or perhaps reteaching classroom expectations is required for all the kiddos. See the matching activity under Freebies for rephrasing the negative.  Teacher handout/posters: see link to Teacherspayteachers store to the right.


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.



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