Creating A Supportive School System

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This week I spent a few hours learning about one school’s journey to create a supportive system for the academic and social/emotional/behavioral development of their students.  The purpose was to understand  how their system worked and to problem solve around areas of need.  Our work revolves around helping schools implement comprehensive and supportive systems that are tailored to the building’s specific needs.

To guide the conversation, we have a principal packet with key forms and information.  The important document is our Multi-Tiered System of Support Planning Tool (fondly referred to as the “Plan-O-Rama“.

The first section is vital as it is an area where the specific data-based needs of the school are clarified.  This, essentially, is the school’s own ‘story” around discipline and behavior.  All of our work together is designed with this in mind; creating calm, predictable and engaging environments is the goal.

Here is what I learned about this school

  • They are a large elementary nestled in a large district with a fairly “needy” population of students (compared to other schools in their district)
  • They have a dozen newly hired teachers and more seasoned teachers as well.  All  are bright, innovative and dedicated
  • They were able to hire two educators to develop a tier-two plan for supporting the teaching of social/emotional and behavioral skills to students in need. They work directly with just under 100 students.   These educators also provide coaching and support to classroom teachers.  They support the Success Room.
  • Students who do not respond well to  tier-two interventions  are taken to the next level of support with a highly individualized plan just for them.  They have a team that meets regularly to help classroom teachers design these support plans.
  • The school has a well-detailed body of expectations that are taught to teachers, students and parents.  The entire discipline system is embodied in their expectations.  Many pro-active and supportive pieces exist within this framework, pulling from the philosophies of Conscious Discipline and other programs.
  • They collect and use data around referrals, analyzing the types of problems the school experiences as well as where problems occur.  Interventions are created based on need.  The entire staff participates in these problem solving sessions.
  • As with most schools, many difficulties happen in the classroom.  It is possible that teachers are inconsistent in how they prevent and respond to mild disruptions.  Routines may not be established.  Teachers may benefit from discussion and learning around classroom organization, routines, expectations and teaching and practicing  what they want to see.

The Plan

This is a great school.  Much thinking has gone into the culture they have created.  There are so many strengths; areas of need appear to be located at the classroom level.  While teachers are motivated and engaged, there may be some areas for them to grow.

  • a needs assessment will be sent to individual teachers around the systems and organization of their individual classroom environment
  • two days of professional learning will be tailored specifically to the self-identified needs of the school
  • a plan for “roll-out” and follow-up coaching will be designed with the entire staff
  • coaching will be designed with a way to evaluate  effectiveness using original goals as the target

We look forward to learning and growing together!  

CHAMPS with Special Education Teachers

We were delighted to be invited to explore Randy Sprick’s CHAMPS  (Classroom Positive Behavior Interventions and Support) with the resource room teachers from an entire district.

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We provide this two day professional learning at our Intermediate School District.  We have customized the learning for entire schools.  This would be the first time taking it to the special education teachers from an entire school district.  We were excited to support this group of dedicated teachers.  

In order to meet the needs of the individuals, we sent out a needs assessment survey prior to the face-to face interaction.  The learning design for the 3 hours incorporated these needs every step of the way.  These teachers spend the majority of their time with students who have the greatest academic and social/emotional/behavioral needs.

The Agenda

  1. Overview of CHAMPS and the book (video)
  2. Assessing teacher needs/student needs in terms of structure
  3. Creating explicit expectations for activities and transitions
  4. Creating structure for independent seat assignments while teacher is with students
  5. Early and late stage corrections
  6. Plan for further professional learning next year
  7. Feedback about the learning
Teacher Need/Student Need

Two brief reflection rubrics were used to get people thinking about their tolerance for movement, noise and chaos; the needs of their students.  So often, when behavior problems arise, there is a mismatch between the two.  The conversation was lively; teachers were brutally honest about their needs.

So often, teachers feel they don’t need any kind of assistance with the structure and organization of their classroom.  This exercise revealed some pretty strong preferences.  Teacher needs impact how they arrange the day; how they interact with students.

Creating Expectations for Activities and Transitions

People found this section most useful.  They were asked to create a list of activities they might have during the day (whole group instruction, small group instruction,  independent seat work,  group time, etc).    The CHAMPS acronym was used to help them determine their expectations

  • Conversation:  Can the students talk?  How loud?  
  • Help:  What do they do if they need help?
  • Activity:  What, specifically , should they be doing
  • Movement:  How mush movement is “ok”?
  • Participation:  What does engagement look like?

Telling Isn’t Teaching    This was a consistent take-away:  people felt that students should KNOW expectations because of their age OR because they were told.  Indeed, telling isn’t teaching.  Explicitly teaching and giving feedback repeatedly is what it takes to create routines that are predictable.  Students can do it if they know, for certain, what we want.

The last step to this part has to do with creating lesson plans to teach the expectations for every activity/transition.

The Rest

We moved into the rest of the content with deep conversation.  The remaining discussions were around creating structure for independent seat assignments while teacher is with students and early and late stage corrections

The group discussed possibilities for further learning throughout next year.

To help provide feedback for us, we decided to do the “I used to think…..Now I think” routine.   from Project Zero’s Cultures of Thinking.

Take Aways:

1.  Teachers THINK they are consistent and that students KNOW what the expectations are until they look at it deeply.  Most often, expectations change often; students aren’t clear about this.  Clever fellas push the envelope to learn where the boundaries are.

2.  Teachers often feel there is little they can do to improve the situation with their most difficult students.  However, there is MUCH they can do to make it better.  The relationship is the first place to go.  Consistent routines  are then pivotal.

3.  When confronted with a mismatch between our needs and the needs of students, it is easy to feel frustration.  However, our task is to do our best to support the child as needed.  As Rita Pierson says:  Every Kid Needs a Champion because “kids don’t learn from someone they don’t like”.

Staying hopeful when things get complicated in the classroom is important.  We can make a difference if we own the learning of students and create predictable environments for them to thrive.  Many aspects of the CHAMPS framework can be helpful guides for teachers looking to improve their craft.