In a conversation a few weeks ago with Bellevue School District Superintendent Dr. Duran, he suggested that I check out a book called Switch. It’s an excellent book by authors Chip and Dan Heath about ways to navigate change, but I also noticed the book provided many other strategies that related to our Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) behavior expectation reboot we started January 2nd. As I’ve been synthesizing some of the information from the book into my daily routines, I’ve found this particular part of the book very helpful.
Finding new, positive, and innovative strategies to address behavior challenges in a school can be a complicated process. In general, one of a school’s main goals is to provide effective and sustainable replacement behaviors for students. The process of finding new behavior strategies traditionally involves looking at the child who is struggling with behavior, reviewing what they’ve done in the past (or the negative experiences they’ve had in the past), and creating new behavior strategies based on that information. It’s what Dan and Chip Heath call in their book an “archaeology dig”. It’s the process of digging in a child’s past (recent past or further back in their childhood) to “excavate the sources” of behavior. In these situations, according to the authors, we tend to focus on what is going wrong, or has previously gone wrong, in a child’s life, and subsequently create systems/strategies of support based on that analysis. But Dan and Chip Heath offer an alternative path to take in these situations.
What if our search for behavior strategies began with focusing on the bright spots, i.e. the times when a child feels love and a sense of belonging. That thought process is a bit counter-intuitive to how we’ve historically addressed behavior challenges, but follow the thought process that Dan and Chip Heath propose. In a scenario where a child is struggling with a certain behavior, we can often make our search for effective behavior strategies more fruitful by investigating what is going right for a child, rather than what is going wrong. The authors suggest using a specific line of questioning that ensure children understand they are empowered to solve their own problems, and adults focus on the potential of a child rather than their history of behavior when developing behavior support strategies.
This philosophy will play a key role in our current PBIS behavior reboot…and beyond. Creating positive behavior supports within a school is not just about positive-expectation-setting and reinforcement systems. It’s also about changing our thinking so we focus on the bright spots, which I believe will make us more efficient at developing truly effective behavior strategies that support all children.
Breaking away from traditional ways in which we conduct discipline and purposefully focusing on the bright spots when looking at behavior challenges can at times take us out of our comfort zone as adults. However, in my opinion, the potential for student-empowerment and a more positive culture far out weigh the discomfort.
Your thoughts on this blog are welcomed and appreciated!