Monday, January 19, 2015

What's our "behavior plan?"

I often get asked, what is our plan for behavior?  The behavior management is all mapped out in our staff handbook.  It is a system of positive rewards and natural consequences. It is based on a blend of research based strategies found in Positive Behavior Initiatives and Love and Logic by Drs. Charles and Jim Fay.   After nearly twenty years of working with elementary kids, this approach is what works best with kids and parents in my experience.  Most of our kids come ready to please their teacher and work super hard.  Their parents have an expectation that they are going to listen to the teacher, be a good friend, and complete their work as directed to do so.  Thus, this is what we should work off of daily as well.

Punitive measures and systems often backfire.  The color systems sends anxiety signals to all the children, not just the ones misbehaving.  The color of the day becomes the focus for the discussions at home rather than the awesome learning that took place for the day.  We want the kids talking about all the planning we worked so hard to implement and not the color that the landed on for the behavior. Correct?  Similarly, there is a reason that recess has been built into the elementary age child's schedule. THEY NEED EXERCISE.  If children do not have time to play, they will become restless and irritable.  Taking away recess of the challenging student will never give you the outcome you desire. Certainly, some children may need the structure of being taught expectations that  other children come to school naturally mastering.  Once we teach them, we see big changes and success.  This certainly takes time, but we take the time to close academic gaps and in an elementary school, it is our role to close some of these behavioral gaps as well.

It is my opinion that when children do not have these basics down , there is usually a reason and the reason is the need and desire to be loved.  Most children that display interference in the classroom are giving you, the teacher,  a signal that they need reassurance and your approval.  If you invest in some simple strategies to build that relationship, you can work on the classroom interference coming with a lot less frequency.

I've included a great article on how to build a relationship with your challenging kiddos below.  I've also linked to some blogs that provide a teacher's perspective on the color plan and their thoughts on that.  Very powerful reading.  I do hope you will explore the links/articles below in relation to my thoughts here.


The Two-Minute Relationship Builder

Sarah McKibben
What if instead of going head-to-head with your most challenging student, you created an ally in him? During the 2013 ASCD Conference on Educational Leadership, presenter Grace Dearborn shared a strategy for making that happen: the "Two-by-Ten."
Dearborn explained that by spending two minutes a day for 10 consecutive days getting to know a disruptive student, teachers can begin establishing an initial connection. Historically referred to as the "two-minute intervention" by researcher Raymond Wlodkowski, the Two-by-Ten strategy is a way to not only break the ice but also form the foundation for a sustainable relationship—and better classroom behavior.
"It's a motivator, it's a management strategy, and it's a formally researched way [to turn a student from a negative to a positive influence]," says Rick Smith, founder of Conscious Teaching, who often presents the method with Dearborn. Smith says Two-by-Ten gives a disruptive student what he is seeking in the first place: a positive connection with an adult.
"Safety is a fundamental human need and if kids don't feel it, they're going to ask for it," he says. "Oddly, the way they sometimes ask for it is to act out." Although it may seem like they are trying to sabotage your classroom, a student is more likely communicating the message "Would you connect with me, so I can let down my guard?"

Targeted Attention

Lisa Kitzmann, a 3rd grade teacher at Eldridge Elementary School in Hayward, Calif., used Two-by-Ten to address the outbursts that were occurring frequently in her classroom. When Eldridge gained a mix of new students because of local school closures, behavior issues in the Title I school escalated.
Although Kitzmann, who refers to herself as a "teddy bear teacher," already connects with students daily, she says the strategy "really helped me target the kids I was struggling with and give them more structured attention."
Curiosity motivated Kitzmann to study the efficacy of Two-by-Ten for her master's thesis. Over the course of a year, she used the strategy on four students (three separate times) and teamed up with a teacher's aide to collect data based on daily observation checklists (which tracked disruptions such as talking with peers, interrupting the teacher, and not following directions) and the number of "red alerts" or behavior referrals sent home to parents.
Kitzmann ultimately found that the students she worked with were "less disruptive, changed their attitudes, and had a stronger drive to succeed in school" after exposure to the Two-by Ten strategy. In addition, the class as a whole was "running more smoothly."
Still, it was a learning process for everyone, Kitzmann explains. Some of the students were more receptive to the conversations than others, but most tended to warm up to the attention by the second week.

A Deeper Connection

Keeping the content of the conversations PG-rated and centered on the student's personal interests is essential to making the strategy work, Smith asserts. Teachers can use an interest inventory to ask questions or just "focus on whatever the kid is talking about to his friends or what he's wearing—his sneakers, backpack, anything at all," says Smith. "If he has a Packers jersey on, that's a sure clue."
The discussions, however, should extend beyond the typical "how are you today, nice to see you," says Kitzmann. Even talking about what the student shared in class or wrote about in an exercise does not have the same effect as when teachers probe more deeply. "The focus of Two-by-Ten is just getting to know the child outside of school," she says. "Find out what his favorite food is, what his favorite hobby is, how did his baseball game go, etc. If [your approach is] authentic, the child will know it."
When a student is especially "resistant and shutdown," Smith recommends striking up a conversation with one of the student's friends within earshot and eventually drawing that student in, even if it takes several days.

Stealth Planning

Two-by-Ten is "one of the most powerful relationship-changing strategies I know," writes Allen Mendler inWhen Teaching Gets Tough (ASCD, 2012). Mendler suggests that, at least for the first few days, teachers build the time into their lesson plans when other students "are engaged in an assignment or project that requires less … direct teaching."
Kitzmann initiated her conversations outside of class when she could more subtly approach a student. "I would do it walking out to recess, walking beside the student to music or PE, checking in on them at lunch, or walking out with them at the end of the day."
Smith advises, especially at the secondary level, that teachers learn the student's schedule and "position yourself in the hall [during passing periods] so [that] you happen to run into him 'by mistake.'" The planning may take a lot of foresight, he says, "but if that kid turns himself around in your class, it will have been worth it."
Allotting time for shorter conversations can also be beneficial as long as they occur every day (not counting weekends) because consistency is what "allows the walls to come down," Smith continues. Thus "half a minute a day for 10 days is better than one 20-minute conversation because [the student] needs that ongoing connection to relax."

Where the Magic Happens

"Does Two-by-Ten solve everything? No," Kitzmann is the first to admit. Although the strategy is not a remedy for disruptive behavior, "in 10 days, you establish enough of an understanding that helps you relate to a child or get a relationship going."
By taking the time to ask the right questions, you learn a lot about the student and often begin to "see the child in a different light," Kitzmann elaborates. "In every experience, I have been surprised by what a student shared, or what they taught me, or how they inspired me."
"Once you make that extra step to connect with a kid, you get results," Kitzmann affirms. "And after the 10 days, the tendency is to keep the momentum going. It just continues; it's natural."
Adds Smith, "You have to remember that the teacher is often pretty guarded as well, initially, because the kid has been acting out. And then as you connect heart-to-heart, that's where the magic happens." 

Could Two-by-Ten help you reach a challenging student? Learn similar strategies from nearly 90 sessions at the 2014 Conference on Educational Leadership in Orlando, Fl., October 31–November2. Visit to register.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2015 Goals and Resolutions

Wow. Time has passed and in the "busyiness" of school and the year progressing, it has been a long time since I have written on my blog.  That was something that I mentally set in my mind to do at least twice a month back when the school year started.  I did not accomplish that goal last semester.  But, is it really a goal if it isn't written out, shared and worked toward?  For me, that is going to be a no.  I have slowly learned that I need to be accountable to myself with the written word, and a to do list that can be struck through with pen.

In my personal life, I quietly went back to a hardbound family planner that can be written in and reviewed by the entire family.  I invested a lot of money and used technology to customize it back in the summer; I was worried that with a child starting high school, it might get harder to juggle my responsibilities as a mom, wife and a principal without a better system in place.  I have found that I am working a lot better with that system in place, so I am going to merge that into my professional life and see if that accountability will help me stick to my professional goals this semester.

So, we know that as a campus we have goals and they are in our SBIC plan that has been published. Those goals can be reviewed online here:  McCall's Campus Improvement Plan 2014-2015 .  In addition to those goals, I have my own principal goal setting that I review with my boss three times a year, and those can be viewed here: .  I have accomplished my goal of 200 walkthroughs a semester early.  It is my hope that by completing that goal, I can work towards accomplishing some of the other goals listed on the two documents that have been shared.  Some personal professional goals have been added to support those two documents, and have been penned in my planner.  I supposed that I could take a picture and upload that here, but I believe that I will just take my written word and publish them here in hopes that they will be accomplished this semester.

Some additional goals that I came up for myself over the winter break are:
1) Complete the application to become a Raise Your Hand Texas attendee at Harvard this summer.  I would like to attend the leadership sessions to increase my capacity to be a leader who helps others achieve goals.
This application is due January 18th, so check in on me with my progess towards this goal.  It has to be completed in one session, so if my door is closed this week, that is hopefully what I am working on finishing!

2)  Be selected as the inaugural group of principals who are selected to be a part of the Plano Principals Visioning Institute.  I quietly submitted my application in December, so I hope that I am approved and notified soon.  Your affirmations are welcomed as I wait it out!

3)  Help McCall earn some accolades.  Positive PR is positive PR.  I don't know what these accolades may be, but I want our school to be recognized for all the hard work that we all pour into our little school.  Our children deserved to be recognized for their hard work as well. I will be on the lookout for honors and awards and I hope that our community will as well.

4)  Mentor and guide our new teachers and staff to be as successful as the possibly can be at the end of this school year.  I want everyone to finish strong, so it is my hope to continue to provide feedback and support of our new staff members this semester.

5) Inspire and engage instruction, especially in the area of math (targeted in the above linked SBIC goals and  principal goals as well).  I hope to continue to provide feedback and resources that will help us reach our children.  I have been blessed by an amazing staff and I want to continue to provide tools that sharpen the saw and reach our children.  I am so pleased with the our implementation of the Understanding by Design lesson plans, that I know with more understanding of that planning process our instruction will continue to improve during the second semester.

I attended some training over the fall semester with Region 10 (and will conclude the series in February) with the Marzano group that I will implement in January that will support the SBIC goals, principal goals, and my additional goals in points four and five above.  I am really excited to implement their ideas as part of a practice I am already doing--walkthroughs!  I will be reviewing the walk through data that I shared with my teachers before the break (200 accomplished in the first semester--mark that principal goal OFF!) and creating a focus to conduct walkthroughs in math during the second semester.  I feel that by targeting the subject of math only during Plano WTs and providing that walkthrough feedback, we are more likely to hit our SBIC goals in math.  While we have a new math curriculum, some may feel we may need two years to make our SBIC goals a reality, I feel that we are doing a great job of implementing the new curriculum and may see our results sooner with this targeted approach.

I look forward to trying this out in January and February and then reviewing where we are at the end of February.  Over spring break, I will reflect upon these goals and see what may need adjusting and report back to all of my teachers about our progress and what adjustments may need to be made with the final stretch of the semester.  I certainly hope that this approach will help me guide McCall where we need to be in the upcoming months.  Here's to an awesome start of 2015!