Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What I Learned This Week (Volume 8)

            The completion of the move into our new home was interrupted by a trip to Las Vegas, which is not a bad reason to interrupt the unpacking of boxes! Charlie Coleman and I did the U.S. launch of the two-day workshops built around our book Pyramid of Behavior Interventions: Seven Keys to a Positive School Environment and had a great group representing four provinces and seven states.

The workshop re-affirmed for us the critical thrust of the book - behavior and academics are inextricably linked – and we must find a way to focus on both if our students are to have the ongoing level of success they are capable of. As one participant put it:

“It’s hard do the collaborative work of a Professional
Learning Community if your school is struggling
with student behavior and school climate issues”

The notion that we create great lessons for the academic outcomes we expect all students to achieve but only focus on consequences to address lapses in behavior needs to change. In the absence of equally structured and effective lessons for imparting our behavioral expectations with students, we will continue to find ourselves reacting. This rarely leads to effective solutions and often produces “more of the same” in terms of the misbehavior. Students who routinely run the consequence route find ways to get even and their methods are often less sophisticated (graffiti, destruction and damage to property, physical and verbal abuse). They also tend to become more disengaged resulting in increasing time demands on all educators.

            It’s also important for educators to understand that positive behavioral outcomes are the expectation for all students. It’s a mistake to assume that our most capable students always understand the reason behind demonstrating expected behavior. Simply performing the task does not mean understanding the task and may not lead to the task being demonstrated in a time of stress. The riots in Vancouver were an indicator of this as the individuals charged with breaking the law have come from a cross section of society that would mirror the academic range found in most schools. Our work in building a behavior matrix is based on the notion that all students should know the expectations in all settings. Lesson plans for social skills need to be incorporated across the grade and content levels.

            What I learned this week, or had reaffirmed, was the idea that our best hope for moving students, schools, and districts forward lies in effectively altering the outcomes for all students. By co-creating (all staff, all students, all parents and community members) our expectations based on our values, we stand the best chance to generate the types of results students are capable of. And the exciting part is that this really does reflect the best practice of teachers over time. As another participant shared after the two days:

“The beliefs you passed on struck a strong chord with
me and reflect many of my own views on education.
I hope they will make our school a better place.”

I’m certain they will!

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