This AND That

What an inspiration it’s been to have attended two days of the Special & General Education conference in Seattle, Washington. Each session was a full day and I mean FULL! Thankfully I was able to grab a second wind for some must-do shopping after the sessions. Hard to believe I’d never been to the Seattle Public Market, nor visited the ‘First Starbucks’. They are now done & done.

Thursday was well spent in a session on Behavioural Disorders by Dr. Gregory Benner. His presentation started strong until I realized…he was a PBS (Positive Behaviour Support) person. I was aghast. Oh no, not that! Having spent the better part of three years setting up EBS, the ‘old’ version of PBS, I was disheartened.

After all, I have been enlightened. I’m all about the SEL, (Social Emotional Learning). I’ve gone the way of the chimes, MindUp, Self-Regulation, Stuart Shanker, Dr. Dan Seigal. How was I going to sit through all whole day, of using rewards to ‘train up the children in the way we want them to go?

Seeing I was in the front row, by choice [keener], to bolt would have been rude. So I stayed, and I’m so glad I did. Practicing self-regulation had fabulous results.

It didn’t take long before Dr. Benner lead me into an uncharted (for me) way of thinking. A behavioural approach and SEL can fit together.


This AND That.  The rest of the day flew by.

Let me offer you some of my notes:

  • Instead of a ‘we can’t’, we have a ‘we can’ mindset
  • Students may not have a support system outside the building, but when they are in our building, they know they can call it home
  • Everyone in the building knows the expectations
  • Kids at risk need order
  • Stay the course – one home at a time, one kid at a time, to create safe, positive, & caring environments
  • Teach them what ‘good’ looks like
  • SEL is critical (yup he said it)
  • There is power in relationship
  • SEL is a life-long process: self-regulation, self-management, self-awareness, social-awareness, decision-making
  • Work on hotspots together. It’s about shared leadership!
  • Welcome/greet each student by name, with eye contact, every morning. Do the same when saying good-bye. Relationship.

What I’m taking away is that for our classes to function safely, and be a place of learning for all our students, there must be clear expectations. These expectations must be taught. Old news, good reminder!  If you’re familiar with PBS, that’s the grid or matrix. That makes sense. In a class where a student is ‘misbehaving’ and there is not a whole-class awareness of expectations that each student knows how to follow, I wonder if the behaviour could be a classroom culture problem? So rather than removing the disruptive student, who may likely be escape motivated, our time may be better spent working together to set up clear class expectations/norms. It doesn’t stop there. For the culture of a classroom to change, students must know, feel, and experience what it’s like to follow those norms. AND (this is the part I love) to follow those norms, Social Emotional Learning is critical. YES!

There are few things in my life that are non-negotiable. There are only a few areas where I would consider myself to be a purist. I’m more of a hybrid model. So why then can’t I take the best of PBS put it along-side of SEL to build success for our students?

About the rewards. I’m not a rewards type person. Truth be told, I’m horrible at giving out positive reinforcement. So horrible, that I’m pretty sure my first principal, Orville Cassidy (1979, Glenwood Elementary) may have commented on my lack thereof. I suppose I have a certain arrogance or belief that there are some things that people just need to do, and why on earth should I praise them for doing so? Hopefully I’ve mellowed a bit throughout the years.  I really don’t get tripped up on the whole reward them, catch them being good, part of the program. We can teach expectations and practice good behaviour without external rewards. Having said that, I know I enjoy a nice ‘Atta Girl!’ every now and then. I suspect our students do as well. It’s about balance. This AND That, rather than, This OR That.

I see the behaviour piece as being about setting clear expectations, creating a class/school norm. I still prefer, the “at our school we walk”, from the old “STOP RUNNING” days. We can’t assume that students will know how to meet these expectations. If they are always hitting, we must let them experience what not hitting is like. Baby steps. This is a big part of the SEL piece.

I’m pretty charged up about this marriage of two streams. The merging of this AND that, gives me hope, freedom, and a bucketful of concrete ideas to further support my school community.

I am proud to be in a school district where a growth mindset is valued. I’m surrounded by a leadership team; the DLT, and our LPVPA who inspire me to keep learning. What an awesome fit for my basic belief that…better is possible.


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2 Responses to This AND That

  1. Tish Sladden says:

    Great comments, Carol. Many of your points hold true for secondary classrooms, too. I pride myself on the culture of my classroom. It`s funny, though…I get many comments from colleagues and admin about how fortunate I am to get such `good`classes each year! You know, I don`t even teach curriculum the first week or so, it`s all about setting expectations and class tone. Thanks for your post, which re-affirms that I am doing the right thing.


    • Thanks Tish. Teaching the expectations, and setting the tone first really does allow us to teach curriculum more successfully throughout the year. Your ‘good’ class comment make me chuckle. I know exactly what you mean.Thanks for taking the time to comment, Tish. I really appreciate your thoughts.


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