Author Archive | Making Education

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 reflections In 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

top10reflection When 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 10 Greet 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.
  Never ENOUGH
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.

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