31 August, 2009

Robustness or Resilience (PBS for example)?

In developing school-wide systems, it may be important to be explicit about whether you are aiming to make the school's behaviour management systems
  • robust - unlikely to fail in any of its parts so that problematic behaviour is prevented from occurring
  • resilient - able to recover quickly and easily from failures (life's ups and downs), even the big ones
Follow the link to a posting on this issue from my favourite blogger (Dave Snowden).
Sometimes, when you are introducing PBS, staff may unwittingly assume that the intention is to make the school's behaviour management robust so that behaviour problems will disappear. Of course, this is unlikely to happen and some staff will then naturally think that "PBS doesn't work".
It is more realistic to aim for school-wide systems that are resilient. This will achieve three major outcomes:
  • school-wide systems will cope better with the ups and downs involved
  • recovery by the school, staff and students will be easier and faster, e.g., restorative practices, and, as a result,
  • behaviour problems will reduce (even if they don't disappear altogether)
And this reminds me of the three measure of progress in relation to a problematic student behaviour:
  1. Are the incidents getting fewer, that is,further apart? - "Yes" indicates the students behaviour is more 'robust' and that the student has more resilience
  2. Is the recovery time getting shorter? "Yes" indicates the student has improved resilience
  3. Are the the incidents getting less severe? "Yes" indicates improvements in both robustness of behaviour and personal resilience)
Problematic behaviour tends to improve in the above order. A "Yes" answer to any of the above questions indicates progress , even if, the last thing that improves is the actual incidents themselves. When a serious incident occurs it does not always mean that "We are back to square one!!!" or "All our work has been in vain!!"
It may be useful to get any staff and the student involved to answer these questions for themselves. In this way you are helping them to building resilience.

18 August, 2009

What is not negotiable in a school?

Are there any things that are not negotiable in a school?
For me, there are three things that are not negotiable,
  • No harm to self, others or property (aka care, safety,...)
  • No disruption to work or safe play (consideration, learning...)
  • No offense to other members of the school community* (courtesy, respect, friendship....)
(* Includes neighbours and visitors)
In fact, these are the three school rules. These rules are derived directly from the rules that apply in our society - the school does not invent these. And they related directly to the two key outcomes
  • success
  • well-being
There are several supportive ways in which we interact with students. The main ways include
  • coaching
  • negotiating
  • mediating
  • befriending
  • advocating
  • ...
In fact when it comes to the not negotiable three school rules, the bottom line is that at times we will just need to be assertive. Of course there are children who, based on their other life experiences, expect all things to be negotiable. And others who dismiss all support other than befriending... And yet others who simply don't understand. But these things don't change the rules.
It is best to achieve as much s possible on the basis of our working relationships with students (coach, friend, mediator...). However, when our working relationships break down, we may need to be assertive and our right to do so comes from our role: Principal, Class Teacher, Duty Teacher, Teacher Aide...
Making the role explicit while being assertive can help reduce the student's confusion.