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
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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