1st Behavior Boot Camp

Well, the first Behavior Boot Camp session is complete!  Initial thoughts, “that went well…” with slight hesitation but a smile.  I thought the lesson’s topics were perfect for the first session and I was, surprisingly, very enthusiastically inspiring (or so I felt).  At the last minute, a few extra kids were invited so in my classroom there was 15 kids – which is too many if you ask me.  The age range of students went from  10-15, which is also not desirable. Both boys and girls, some were friends but most were complete strangers.

A fellow teacher friend accompanied me during this two-hour endeavor, which I would recommend for every session, especially if this many students show up next time.  Remember, this is suppose to be an intervention/punishment for previous behaviors so these are not the students you can trust to be paying attention.  Additionally, I had some students who were at Saturday School for attendance issues and unfortunately for them, they got to hear me ramble on about behavior.  However a lot of things were very easy to translate to attendance as well.

The 3 R’s Be Responsible, Choose the Right Thing, and Respect Yourself lecture and discussion took about 45 minutes to review with the students.  I also added some think-pair-share scenarios with the students – they didn’t seem to like it but I was able to talk about a lot of misconceptions that were coming up in conversation.  For example, “Well I’ll just beat up the kid outside of school, that way I don’t get in trouble” – that was quickly turned into a conversation in which I read the behavior guidelines and explained that he can still get in trouble if he puts another student in danger and/or breaks the law.

The students were asked to write behavior goals, I will share some of them in my next post.  Student surprise me sometimes!  My hope is to create a binder with all the things the students do during Behavior Boot Camp and keep it on file to review with the student if needed.  Follow-through is going to be tough but will be really crucial in the implementation of a whole school-wide behavior intervention program.

Next month’s idea! Review the behavior manual with the students, stopping for discussion and scenarios…possibly some role-play.  Update coming the next time I can get into a coffee shop (best place to do work if you ask me!)

Suggestions/comments/questions are ALWAYS welcome, thanks for reading!

Workplace Culture

Winter break is over and the kids are back.  Our not so favorite behaviors are on the rise, the weather is cold and there is no snow in sight.  There are many things that I think are important in keeping our kids sane but sometimes its about keeping the teachers sane.  Happy kids make happy teachers but do happy teachers make happy kids?  Well, maybe not but does it help? I’m sure it does.

One thing I (try to) do is before I start talking to a teacher/staff member is say, “hey, how are you?” sometimes these people stop in their tracks and look at me all strange.  Schools are such a fast paced “I only have 20 seconds” type of environment and sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we have to do that we forget about each other.  I see a lot of people struggling these days, everything is about numbers and scores not about well-being.  Next time you have a stop to talk to someone, make sure you stop, smile and remember to ask them something personal or at least “how’s your day?”…sounds so petty but see if you notice anything different because I usually do!

So I heard recently about The Google Work Environment.  Have you heard about it?  Well you should check out some information at The Google Culture.  Here are some interesting things I think schools/workplaces should consider –

  • Laptops everywhere – standard issue for mobile coding, email on the go and note-taking.
  • Foosball, pool tables, volleyball courts, assorted video games, pianos, ping pong tables, and gyms that offer yoga and dance classes (who can teach yoga?! I’d pay $5 to do it after school!)
  • Grassroots employee groups for all interests, like meditation, film, and salsa dancing.
  • Healthy lunches and dinners for all staff at a variety of cafés.
  • Break rooms packed with a variety of snacks and drinks to keep Googlers going.

Ok…so I know this sounds like a dream work environment but even ONE of those things would brighten up anyones day!  If Googlers saw my break room, I think they’d quit on the spot!  Now, I don’t know how any of these awesome things would be a priority to any company let alone a school but I think there has to be something to create a better culture across the board.  Lets take a small idea from an awesome elementary school in the suburbs that I did my counseling internship at last spring.  Every month a grade group (a group of teachers who teach the same grade) made breakfast for the rest of the school.  I’m not talking they bought Dunkin Donuts coffee and munchkins – they MADE breakfast, we had egg souffles, fresh baked banana bread and coffee…OK maybe it was from Dunkin Donuts.  There was no morning meeting that day but everyone came early and not just for the food – it was such a nice time to catch up with the other teachers.  No one talked about students, complained about administration, they smiled and enjoyed themselves and then went about their day happy and full (and caffeinated!)  Did this make a huge difference? Well it did for me…I looked SO forward to that special Friday during the month and wouldn’t miss it for the world  – if you know me, you know I don’t like missing free food!!

So what does your school/workplace do to keep the staffers sane? What works, what doesn’t?

What You can do to Facilitate Positive Behaviors in a Middle School Setting

Some would say I am technically a first year teacher but this is anything but my first year in the classroom.  Currently, I’m a special education teacher at a brand new Charter School in the Point Breeze neighborhood of South Philadelphia.  With my elementary and special education degree and a recent graduate degree in guidance counseling, I’ve had the opportunity to be in many different types of classrooms in all different types of schools.  This year has given me the opportunity to showcase all of my skills and merge them together in hopes of understanding the system and what is needed to help all students succeed.  My school has recently come off the “persistently dangerous” list but we are far from meeting our goals.  The biggest issues I’ve come across so far, deal mostly with behavior and its impact on teaching and the learning environment.

Behavior and school climate is a topic that impacts every person in a school.  As a special education teacher, I often deal with students who require behavior goals as a part of their individual education plan.  Since my students have difficulty learning, some cope with this stress by acting out.  I’ve had many teachers look me in the eye and say “what else can I do!?” At first, I didn’t want to tell the teachers what to do but it quickly came apparent they were really asking for HELP and I needed to step in!  There are many perks to being a first year school – one is the open system.  I have the ability to help wherever is needed in whatever capacity in order to help our students.  So I started to think about what to do…

Most of my problem behavior students already have behavior goals – my first step was to meet with these students and show them these documents and talk about them.  Most of these students already understand that they misbehave and truly just DO NOT CARE (or so their teenage self thinks) which is the worst feeling – it makes you truly just want to give up.  But I couldn’t just give up, I had to work harder and think outside the box.  Next, I looked into the implementation of students functional behavior assessments and positive behavior support plans – what was this school doing last year and what is feasible right now to implement?  Individual daily reports could work but how do you make sure all your students who are in different classes are using this plan everyday? How do you collect the data everyday and make it work?  These are all questions I struggled with in my head.  So I had to step back and look – it’s not just about the student…is it?

Think about laws – they are there so the majority of the population follows them and there are no issues.  Those that do not follow get in trouble and those who consistently do not follow them, end up in jail.  Lets think about schools – there are rules so the majority of the students follow them with no issues.  Those who do not follow them get in trouble and those who consistently do not follow them, end up suspended?  I understand the logic but does that fix the problem? NO.  These students just end up farther behind academically and therefore cause a ruckus because they are confused/frustrated.  With research on alternatives to suspension, the wheels start turning.  There needs to be another step before suspension/expulsion.  It needs to teach students about their behaviors, it needs to gives them the attention they are asking for but also show them where their behaviors will take them in life.  With that idea, I started designing.

My ideas let me to design a Behavior Boot Camp. Behavior Boot Camp is a mandatory monthly intervention workshop that is designed for small group behavior skill based training. The mini-courses would work on anger management techniques, goal-setting and mentorship to facilitate socially appropriate behavior among students at-risk for developing chronic behavior problems.

This intervention is considered a secondary intervention, which is intended for those students who need more support than is provided by school-wide and classroom interventions. While these students benefit from explicit teaching and reinforcement of appropriate behaviors at the universal level, they continue to exhibit inappropriate behavior as evidenced by repeated discipline referrals in a short period of time (e.g., 3 or more office discipline referrals in a month or marking period). The purpose of secondary interventions is to provide students behaviorally at-risk for increasingly restrictive interventions with additional structure, supports and instruction to:

1) Prevent them from exhibiting more intensive and pervasive behavior problems.

2) Help students navigate their social environments successfully.

Our students need to be taught about character education and appropriate behavior, not punished every time they do something wrong.  With my counselor education, I was able to pull out a few things that I would have done in small group interventions and create them for Saturday School (if you don’t have a Saturday School, think of other ways you can get students without taking them out of class…lunch or after school groups – remember, these students need to be in class as much as possible). The instruction should take approximately one hour, maybe more depending on the number of students who show up.  Students will also complete an hour of planned community service which helps bring the character education together.  My first lesson involves character education and goal writing.  My goals and objectives are –

Students will discuss responsibility, how to choose the right thing and how to respect themselves.

Students will list what type of things they have control over/what they have choices about.

Students will identify 2 short-term and 1 long-term goal.

Check out the lesson here Behavior Character and Goal Setting Lesson.

Updates will come as soon as our first Behavior Boot Camp – January 14th