Positive behavior intervention support professionals must continue learning to achieve high success in education.
By Kelsey Isaacson
I thought I knew what it meant to be an education behavior specialist but moving to a new school district near Tacoma, Washington has taught me to broaden my perspective. I came from a small town outside of Eugene, Oregon with a few years under my belt working with the Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) principles. If you know the history of Safe and Civil Schools, you know the founder Randy Sprick is based in Eugene – so it should go without saying that I knew the drill, right? Little did I know that every environment is it’s own unique experience and I still had (and have) much to learn.
Leadership is essential to establishing vision and values for behavior support teams
While I experienced baptism by fire in my new setting further up the Interstate 5 in the Pacific Northwest, I also was blessed with a champion of the principles in Megan Madlena. I remember her greeting me with joy and confidence my first day of school in Washington, “Welcome to the behavior support team.” I didn’t yet know what we were in for as I thought all behavior prevention was similar to the interaction, structure and community that I had come from in a small town school district. Whereas previously we did not have substantial disruptions as a normative experience, I would soon be exposed to secondary trauma and a new process designed by Ms. Madlena in her Step Up 2 Success (SU2S) program.
Step Up 2 Success provides a principles and structure for school wide success
I quickly learned that behavior in our new context was going to be a whole new experience in terms of frequency, intensity and response mechanisms. Students were refusing to comply and teachers quickly were becoming frustrated with behavior which was escalating the issues. As we continue the learning process, it is clear that when teachers do not have a clear structure or consistent support the gaps in the system perpetuate a cycle of negative behavior. If we want to counteract the status quo of educational set backs we have to agree to envision a better process and response. In observing Megan’s Step Up 2 Success principles in action, I was inspired, encouraged and equipped to face the challenges ahead. She was Yoda to my Luke and together we grew into a very good BST team.
The three foundational components that create the foundation for a thriving behavior support team:
1. Educational behavior support team foundation number one – teamwork
Teamwork makes the dreamwork. While it’s a bit cheesy, its true. When you have a team that is on vision, on value and on each other’s side, you can accomplish so much together. Megan and I had no prior introductions or interactions with each other. I had some PBIS experience in a much different context. I needed her SU2S structure, her leadership support and the vision to believe that high success was achievable for all students. We first respected each other’s position as professionals and we soon learned that our strengths complimented each other which strengthened our trust in one another. As we worked side by side, we experienced days of outright exhaustion but were able to encourage each other to press forward as we implemented and adapted the Step Up 2 Success principles.
2. Educational behavior support team foundation number two – conversation
Perhaps one of my contributions was the terminology for, “Have the conversation.” To create a high structure with high support for all parties involved in the educational behavior support process it is essential to be in constant communication. Having the conversation means that we cannot be afraid to address issues with our behavior support team, teachers, students, parents and administration. Without having conversation there is no capacity for growth or grounds for forward progress. Key to communication is conversation. As a sub-text to communication it is important to document everything. Behavior support teams also benefit greatly from having people who are talented in keeping things organized. When you are engaged in behavior support often the time to document runs into the end of the day or even after hours.
3. Educational behavior support team foundation number three – response
Behavior prevention is all about response which coincidentally is also the most complex component of the process. To respond to behavior you have to be in motion constantly so that you can see, hear and feel the pulse of what is happening moment by moment throughout the day. Behavior support specialists must be self-aware and reflect often. Self-awareness means that we are honest about our head space at all times. When we are upset or frustrated, which happens often and is part of the process, we have to develop strategies to keep ourselves calm and neutral. As an educational support professional you must keep yourself in check so that you do not escalate the situation further. Too often our responses set us back from success rather than move us forward. Behavior is going to be a constant so we have to develop high structure and high support to respond appropriately. Behavior is a moving target so we have to adapt our aim in real time and in relationship to our values.
Continuing to learn is essential to growth as a professional and a behavior support team
Those new to behavior in education or coming into a new environment need to understand that you are not alone. New experiences are par for the course when working with students. I thought I knew behavior but still had, and have, a lot to learn. It’s important to recognize what you don’t know. This doesn’t mean that we beat ourselves up but rather that we open ourselves to learn and experience new things. It is also important to recognize what you do know and to give your experiences some credit. Even though my prior exposure was very different from my new environment, it still come into play for developing my new approaches as I learned the Step Up 2 Success process.
Teamwork, conversation and response require you as a behavior support professional to use what you have, to always be learning and to recognize the need to adjust as you go. If I can do this, so can you. I believe in our Step Up 2 Success process because it equips us to adapt to any situation. I hope you will find these principles to be helpful in your experience and environment as well.
Contact SU2S to for more information related to education and self care
Keys to success when developing structure and support for behavior prevention in education.
by Megan Madlena
At Step Up 2 Success, why do we believe in:
* Low Intensity Prevention
* Early Stage Interventions
* De-escalation Strategies?
Because when kids win, we all win!
When we develop High Structure combined with High Support we can build our educational systems around High Success. While we cannot control behavior or outbursts, we can work to build programs that are geared for prevention, systems that create collaborative support and that adapt best practices which expand our ability to be effective.
What do we do as a behavior team when students don’t respond?
First, we must understand that there are multiple causes for student misbehavior. Whenever a situation escalates we want to ensure that we constantly remind ourselves and our teams to respond in three key ways – early, calmly and consistently.
Developing learning targets for educational behavior support teams
As part of our overall vision we want to develop learning targets. Learning targets set benchmarks for how all participants will:
Understand adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as a behavior support team
Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) means changing our frame of reference from asking a student, “What’s wrong with you?” to trying to understand the broader perspective of, “What happened to you in your life that is causing this escalation?” By expanding our view of our role in this system of positive behavior intervention systems can help us respond to students misbehavior with High Support.
Key: Students with high ACES live in fight or flight mode, it is our job to recognize this and respond (early, calmly and consistently).
“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in my classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather…in all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” - Haim Ginott, School Teacher and Child Psychologist
Consistently communicating behavior support values to prepare for experiences
In the heat of the moment when a student is escalated, especially when there is a violent, vulgar or vociferous outburst, it is difficult to remember these principles. Yet, it is in exactly these moments that we need to be engaged with our vision for positive student intervention.
Step Up 2 Success can help prepare your team for behavior prevention success
We invest in building High Structure to attempt to prevent misbehavior. We invest in High Support so that we can collaboratively respond to situations where interventions are necessary. We continually learn and grow our capacity so that we can strive for High Success. We have an important role to play in helping the underserved feel supported in an equitable system – to humanize those who may be difficult.
Instructional video covering school wide expectations for students at breakfast
This video demonstrates how we communicate a consistent expectation for students during our breakfast time. These short and simple videos can be utilized in the classroom as well as at assemblies to reinforce steps to success.
Starting the school day on a positive note requires consistent communication of expectations.
Breakfast is key to starting our day of in the right mood and mindset so that we can achieve in the learning process. Establishing clear expectations is key to developing high structure for administrators, educators, assistants and students.
Step Up 2 Success (SU2S) shares a recent video made for real world application to establish recess expectations for students.
SU2S.org will help you build high success at school, at home and at work.
Instructional video covering school wide expectations for students while using the restroom
This video demonstrates how we communicate a consistent expectation for students when utilizing the restroom at school. These short and simple videos can be utilized in the classroom as well as at assemblies to reinforce steps to success.
Behavior support and prevention starts with communicating effectively and consistently with students.
Using the bathroom is a critical utility for students and educators, it is essential that we provide a safe and consistent atmosphere in our schools. Establishing clear expectations is key to developing high structure for administrators, educators, assistants and students. Step Up 2 Success (SU2S) shares a recent video made for real world application to establish restroom expectations for students.
Let us know what you have done to improve communication, consistency and accountability during bathroom use.
Step Up 2 Success will help you build high success at school, at home and at work.
Why are we constantly putting out fires in education?
By Megan Madlena & Kelsey Isaacson
We need to stop putting out fires. We put out too many fires in education. A behavior support team should be a part of a larger system of High Support that is aimed at prevention.
Constantly being in reactive mode wears people out and is ineffective.
By empowering teachers, assistants and students we can improve retention and put students first.
What does it mean to be proactive rather than reactive?
When we wait for a problem to escalate and then seek administrative help to assist with a student that is misbehaving.
Positive plans that create a system of support that have High Structure and High Support.
Playing ahead of the game. Read more on these principles in our SU2S.org article - We Make The Weather
What is a substantial disruption?
Subjective factors include the student, the teacher and the grade level. When there is an escalation we are reacting not to the behavior but to the plan. We stay calm, neutral and consistent.
Reactive systems are often viewed as interuptive or ineffective.
Teachers can view positive behavior systems that are reactive as rewarding bad behavior. When we work to be proactive, to respond to the plan rather than the behavior, we build preventative interventions.
By working within the system and the plan teachers allow the principles to work for them. Teachers get escalated because of misbehavior because they feel that there isn’t a solid plan.
Step Up 2 Success creates a plan and a structure to empower student and teacher so that everyone can work for High Success. We didn’t start the fire, we respond to the fire(s) but we want to do is to work together to get ahead of it.
Video by IZ Media
Creating Opportunities to Learn
By Megan Madlena
Step Up 2 Success is an Equitable Response to student Misbehavior with Systematic Early Interventions
This article is an overview of some general educational management concepts. We will discuss classroom structure and why prevention and positive interactions are so important towards building success in a schoolwide systems and programs.
As educators our vision directs how we develop our strategy for preventing misbehavior. When an administration lays out a mission statement they are laying a foundation from which they will build their teams, systems and processes. We refer back to the mission as we design our High Structure, as we build our High Support and as we strive for High Success.
In a scholastic setting the mission sets the vision for what the end result will be. In the organizational mission statement we outline some of the core methodology for how we will pursue our educational goals. In the school’s core business supplies details to how our systems will be structured. The mission is the foundation of the school’s vision, by clarifying the vision the administration sets the tone for how they will recruit, whom they will hire, what they will structure and the systems they will implement.
High Structure & High Support Considerations:
In our current educational reality of misbehaviors we have the following considerations when developing a behavioral intervention system that will enable us to build High Success:
How do we empower teachers?
How do we build capacity?
How do we build stamina?
How do we encourage people to show up for this work?
How do we contribute to a positive mindset?
How do we support teachers?
How do adults learn? How do we engage them?
How do we lead this?
In future articles from the Step Up 2 Success team we will spend more time defining and outlining strategies to address the items listed above. We are here to be a resource for educators. We believe we have a system that is clear and has a proven track record of helping to build high structure, high support and reaching for high success when working with children.
Current systems of support through which we can collaborate to build our high structure include Positive Behavior Intervention Systems (PBIS) or Randy’s Sprick’s Safe and Civil Schools. As we develop our behavioral systems we want to teach what we expect – to keep calm and use positive behavior rather than respond to misbehavior with our own escalation. A good mission, vision and values statement is a great place to start when developing a clear structure to support our educational goals. By investing in High Structure we help offset misbehavior through preventative operations.
What do we do when a student doesn’t respond to our efforts? We need a system of support that empowers teachers and builds their capacity for dealing with misbehavior calmly, immediately and consistently. Building a structure that is centered around the organization’s mission sets the tone for developing supports for educators, assistants, parents and students. Collaboration is the key to High Support which strengthens our educational ability to respond as well as prevent behavioral issues.
A key principle in developing high support is remembering that our response determines everything by setting a tone for how our team will deal with misbehavior. Let’s take a look at the levels of behavior response.
Level 1 - Low Intensity Prevention Strategies
Principle: Once a situation is escalated it will be harder to restore. Intervention is about playing ahead of the game.
Practical resources and approaches include:
Educational Breaks (Individual or whole class)
Calm and Neutral Questions
Behavioral Momentum (Sure I will strategy)
Praise student frequently
Increase Opportunities to Respond
Alternate seating, give the student a space (blue line box)
Call on student frequently for help
Break down assignment
Breathing instructions (Take a few deep breaths)
Draw a picture
Give frequent non-verbal interaction
Noise Cancelling head phones
Help student start the assignment
Music Break (Individual or Whole Class)
Speak in a calm neutral tone
Let student stand while working
Give a signal phrase for when student feels upset
Touch base with student on a schedule
Make a visual schedule
Use a timer
Have student run a quick errand
Have earned reward system
Have a special space near teacher
Make student your helper
Sample Level One Intervention Form (Resources Page)
Behavioral Momentum and Choice
Behavioral Momentum is defined as the use of a series of high-probability requests to increase compliance with lower-probability requests (Ray, Skinner & Watson, 1999). In practice for an educational setting, behavioral momentum basically means to build up momentum towards what you really want the child to do. When working with a student start by tossing out easy, or “throw away”, demands that they are likely to accomplish first. Another way to phrase this process is that rather than approaching the child with what YOU want in mind, shift your perspective to what THEY are most likely to want to do. This simple shift can yield positive rewards when we provide choices that build into momentum. This creates the foundation for High Structure and enables us to maintain High Support.
Positive to Corrective Ration (5:1)
What is a positive interaction?
When a teacher interacts with a student who is exhibiting appropriate behavior, count the intervention as positive. (+)
What is a corrective interaction?
When a teacher interacts with a student who is exhibiting inappropriate behavior, count the interaction as corrective. (–)
It may sound simple but the single most important thing that teachers can do to improve the overall behaviors of students in their classrooms is to increase the number of positive interactions they have with each student. When we invest in building a positive ratio in our interactions with students we increase our ability to effectively prevent as well as engage in corrective interactions. Positive interactions is a High Structure tenant, when an educational team combines this will continued High Support they increase their potential for High Success.
Ratio of Interactions Formula
This strategy involves making the effort to interact with EVERY student more frequently (5 times more) when the student is behaving responsibly than when he or she is behaving irresponsibly. We want to build positive experiences, interactions and reserves in our students so that we can prevent behavior. If the positive to negative (or corrective) interactions dips below 5 to 1 there is potential for escalation. High Support seeks to be proactive rather than reactive with regards to behavior by doing something as simple as ensuring we are having positive interactions with students.
The idea is that by spending two minutes a day for 10 consecutive days getting to know a disruptive student, teachers can begin establishing an initial connection. This will lead to better classroom behavior and higher levels of participation. Positives always work best for tough kids, they are managed not cured as we recognize that there are multiple causes for misbehavior. If an investment as little as two minutes a day, or 10 minutes a week, can help us to better understand the students we are serving as well as prevent behaviors, why wouldn’t we write that check? The High Success philosophy is born from the reality that developing High Structure combined with High Support can yield positive results in our educational efforts.
It takes a team to build High Structure combined with High Support to achieve the goal of High Success. As administrators, educators, assistants, parents and students we didn’t come this far to only come this far! We need to be open to accepting feedback so that we can bring the conversation forward on these measures and challenge our assumptions about what will and won’t work. When we Step Up 2 Success we open a world of collaborative opportunities.
Step Up 2 Success (SU2S) contributors include Megan Madlena, Kelsey Isaacson, Jon Isaacson and others. Contact us to contribute relevant content to SU2S at Home.
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