Sunday, January 15, 2012


Tomorrow is Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.  We celebrate a man who gave his life to make America look a little more like we wanted everyone to believe we were.  At school, the students have the day off.  The staff has professional development.

We'll spend most of the day working on positive behavior intervention and supports.  I've been through this tango before, only this time I know the tune.  I'm looking forward to it; it had a big positive effect in my last school district, and it made a huge change in the way I approach my job.  There are a lot of posts with tags about PBiS on this blog.  I wonder about my colleagues' receptivity to it this time, and I'm a little afraid that we're going to begin work without 80% staff buy-in.  But we'll see.  I've had a lot of 1-on-1 conversations with my colleagues, many of whom are just better at positive student management than I am, and nobody disagrees with the basic principles: identifying desired behaviors, teaching desired behaviors, supporting desired behaviors.  Their hesitation comes, as is always the case for people who already have too much to do, from a fear that this will be one more damn thing they have to do that everyone is going to forget about by August anyway, so why invest the energy?  I think this "reform"* has staying power, though; I know it does for me.

I can't help but reflect on the irony of planning a system on changing bad behavior on a holiday in which we celebrate someone's bad behavior.  If King had followed the rules, he would have faded into history.  Instead, he defied behavior expectations, responded neither to positive nor negative behavior responses, and helped lead a movement of making people a little more equal.

*"Reform" is in quotes because PBiS is something that good teachers have always done.  The change is doing it systematically--everybody does it about the same way for about the same things--and deliberately--you know ahead of time what you're looking for, and you do it fairly consistently.


Ray said...

It always seems harder to implement positive behavior support to secondary teachers. Most feel students should all ready come to school with the skills to learn but so often fail to realize the students don’t have the same norms taught at their homes that the teacher learned at a very early age from their parents and grandparents. It is similar to how I have learned about race. My family had long standing norms about where blacks and whites stood in the world. It wasn’t until someone taught us differently did we learn and expectations grew. The norm in my family now is to accept all people as one. This wasn’t the case fifty years ago.

I guess I made a leap but your blog got me to thinking and reflecting. Thanks.

JohnCosby said...

It's always a pleasure to read your comments. When I was doing my teaching internship, I was very much the teacher you describe: I only wanted to teach the best and the brightest, only students who came to the table interested in learning Spanish, and the office could sort out the discipline problems. My mentor teacher worked hard with me about that attitude, and it eventually helped, and I'm a better teacher because of it.

During my first year at Burr Oak--I cringe to think on it now. Learning about PBS changed the way I approach education in general, and classroom management especially, in a completely different way. And so we learn. And we teach, hoping that our children don't make the same mistakes we do.

j.a.stick said...

We have been using PBIS at our school for several years now. It works when implemented consistently, as most everything in education and in life.

JohnCosby said...

j.a.stick, Thanks for chiming in. Is consistency difficult to achieve? Does your administration, or anyone else in your building, do anything specific to encourage it? I've done PBiS before, and I remember it's terribly difficult to remember, when you're in front of a classroom, and really angry at a student behaving silly just to get attention, that the absolute wrong thing to do is to call him out for it. Deliver consequences, yes, but not attend to the student. And then to try to come back later to catch him being good. And still keep on track in your lesson.