We have all heard the analogy that teaching is like juggling. As educators, we are responsible for keeping many balls in the air. Now, imagine you’re juggling all those balls in the air, and then new balls keep getting thrown in while you’re simultaneously sending other balls out of your cycle. In juggling, this is called passing. Who knew this was its own category in juggling?
In the spring, the world comes alive with extreme growth. Plants blossom. Anyone with a yard or a garden knows that as growth happens, it requires patience and perseverance to help the garden become fruitful. From planting the seeds to watering, weeding, and nurturing the plants, countless tasks go into creating a thriving garden. In the same way, tending to your Multi-Tiered System of Supports requires patience, time, and attention to help your practice thrive.
In my first year of teaching, I was hired as a special education teacher at an alternative high school on the south side of Chicago. I had a great experience there and truly loved working with high school students. I had never considered myself to be “a math person,” but I ended up enjoying teaching math much more than I expected. What I did not expect was that I would be teaching resource classes for high school seniors who were performing at around a 4th-grade level in math. In this situation, math interventions became my new best friend.
My experience in education has made me a true believer in the good things that can come from a fully implemented Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) practice. I worked with students who went from ditching daily to being eligible for graduation because they found a person on campus who saw their abilities and recognized them for their efforts until they grew toward success. When looking for a solution to behavior problems and disproportionalityon campus, PBIS is typically at the top of the search list. Many educators hesitate to invest in PBIS, though, because they have heard it is just “points and parties.” But a PBIS system, when implemented with fidelity, is so much more than acknowledgments and celebrations. And it is not a replacement for campus discipline procedures! Rather, PBIS is the behavior and attendance branch of a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Just like MTSS, PBIS is a three-tiered, evidence-based framework that enables the success of all students while improving social-emotional competence, academic success, and overall school climate. This blog will share the why and the how behind creating a campus-based PBIS practice with integrity.
As a middle school teacher, I tapped into every creative avenue for presenting information to my students. My students were diverse, not only culturally but also with different interests, strengths, and challenges. Hooking them on a concept was hard work! I was competing with their phones and social lives. Even so, I wanted to ensure the skills and concepts covered in my English class stuck in their brains for a long time.
Student engagement remains a consistent topic of interest for educators. How do educators and schools compete with all the other entertainment forms that captivate students? As a former middle school teacher, I often felt like I needed to be a circus performer to capture students' attention, standing on my desk and keeping a continuously high-energy environment. However, that isn’t the case. Engagement within the classroom often starts at a simpler level, by meeting the needs of students and building an environment they want to be a part of each day.
When my state began the Common Core Curriculum shift, we examined and mapped out standards. I soon realized there was no way we had enough time for our students to master all of the reading, writing, speaking and listening standards for their grade level. With such a broad range of standards and topics, it was hard to know where my students needed help as we had to quickly move through standards and skills. There was no systematic way to identify what I should prioritize.
One of the most challenging parts of my work as a High School Administrator was coaching my teachers and staff on the importance of making decisions based on assessment data. During my initial one-on-one meetings with my teachers and staff, I would ask them, “What assessment data are you using to drive your decision-making and instruction to meet the needs of your students? Most times, I would get a blank stare, or as my nephew says, I would hear crickets. Other times I would receive a response like this: “I did not need a test to tell me; I just know my students.”