1 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Calling All Frequent Flyers Ross W. Greene ' t working. If you ' re ready to rethink and retool, then Your sch ool discipline program isn re ready for collaborative problem solving . you ' When I met with an assistant principal last year, he showed me the statistics he had compiled on the astronomical rates of d isciplinary referrals, detentions, and " This is just not OK, " he said. suspensions in his school the previous year. And then he showed me another statistic. " Do you know that 75 percent of unted for by only those disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and detentions were acco m seeing those students 20 students in my school? Those are my frequent flyers. If I ' m doing isn ' t working. These students really need me — I mean constantly, then what I ' — to do something different around here. " us If you fly a lot, like I d o, the term frequent flyer probably has a positive ' connotation. It means that you get upgraded to first class (sometimes); that you re - prized space for your bags among the first to board the plane, thereby ensuring much et lots of bonus miles so you can fly for free every in the overhead bins; and that you g now and again (assuming you still feel like flying after all that flying). But when it comes to school discipline, frequent flyer has a different meaning. These are the kids who aren ' t responding to all those referrals, detentions, and suspensions; who aren ' ' s currently t benefiting from the school discipline program as it configured. These are the kids we lose. First Things First The unfortunate reality is that, in many places, school discipline hasn t kept pace with ' why what we now know about why some students have behavioral challenges and expensive. traditional approaches to school discipline are often counterproductive and ' — — Collaborative Problem Solving One effective approach I ve developed 1 represent It can help s a radical departure from traditional school discipline practices. school staff view challenging behavior through more compassionate, accurate, and productive lenses. It can clarify what they need to focus on to help challenging students. And ' s not easy. It ' s hard it can provide them with the tools they need. But it work. To better understand and help behaviorally challenging students, we first need to answer two crucial questions. Source: From " Calling All Frequent Flyers, " by R. W. Greene, 2010, Educational Leadership, 68 (2), pp. 28 – 34. Copyright 2010 by ASCD. Reprinted with permission.
2 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ ? Why Are Challenging Students Challenging In the past 30 years, research has told us that challenging kids are challenging because they lack the skills n ot to be challenging (see Greene et al., 2002; Greene, 2010a). The skills they lack include crucial cognitive skills, especially in the domains of flexibility/ adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving. If they had these d use t hem — because they ' d prefer not to be behaviorally challenging. ' skills, they ' s because doing well is preferable to not doing well. These students don That t lack ' motivation; they lack skills. Much of this research has been conducted on kids categorized by specific diagno - deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); oppositional defiant ses, such as attention disorder (ODD); conduct disorder; nonverbal learning disability; autism spectrum disorders (such as Asperger ' s syndrome); and mood and anxiety disorders. However, ' it agging skills, rather than the disorders, that tell us the most about why a s the l student is behaviorally challenging. If challenging behavior is the result of lagging skills, then we can understand such behavior as a form of developmental delay, no different fr om any other. Students with reading inefficiencies lack the skills required for being proficient readers. Kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges lack the skills required for proficiently handling life ' s social, emotional, and behavioral cha llenges. This is exciting knowledge, a breath of fresh air. For a long time, we ' ve been thinking that challenging behavior was the result of poor motivation or lax parental discipline. Consequently, many school discipline programs are geared toward giving challenging students the incentive to do well. Detention and suspension are forms of punishment, and rewards are cut from the same bolt of cloth. But if these interventions were working, the frequent flyers wouldn ' t be getting punished and losing anticipat ed rewards so often. ' s easy to When we view frequent flyers through the prism of lagging skills, it ' understand why rewards and punishments haven t been getting the job done: These ' t teach kids the skills they lack. This is akin to taking antibiotics or interventions don ' t fix. administering chemotherapy for ailments that antibiotics and chemotherapy don When Are Challenging Students Challenging ? When the demands we place on students exceed their ability to adapt, a clash occurs and the demands for those skills, what I call the clash of the between the lagging skills two forces. Of course, if the environment demands certain skills and a kid has those ' t occur and challenging behavior doesn ' t happen. By the same skills, the clash doesn token, if a kid lacks skills but the environment doesn ' t demand those skills, there is no clash and no corresponding challenging behavior (this explains why kids who lack skills aren ' t challenging all the time). But when the environment demands skills that a kid lacks, the clas h of the two forces occurs and the likelihood of challenging behavior increases.
3 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ In each challenging student, this clash occurs under highly predictable conditions, which we sometimes refer to as antecedents, triggers, or situations. I refer olved problems. to them as uns For example, participating appropriately in circle time requires skills. If a student lacks those skills, then this clash of the two forces heightens the likelihood of challenging behavior. Circle time is, therefore, a problem waiting to be solved. Similarly, completing various class assignments requires skills. If a student lacks these skills, then this clash of the two forces increases the likelihood of challenging behavior. Thus, the accumulation of class assignments that a student lacks the skills to complete is an unsolved problem. Each challenging kid has a " pile " of unsolved problems that reliably and predictably precipitate challenging behavior. The goal of intervention is to move lved problems don problems from the unsolved pile to the solved pile. So t cause ' challenging behavior; only unsolved problems do. Although flexibility and adaptability, frustration tolerance, and problem solving are the general domains in which behaviorally challenging students lack skills, we can identify a v ariety of more specific skills using a tool called the Assessment of Lagging (see ) . Skills and Unsolved Problems, or ALSUP www.lostatschool.org The ALSUP helps educators identify the various lagging skills that s et the stage for challenging behavior, such as having difficulty shifting from one task to another, ' s emotions so as to think clearly, and appreciating the maintaining control over one effect of one s behavior on others. It also helps reveal the specific u nsolved problems ' that are setting challenging behavior in motion, such as being unable to start or complete a particular class assignment, work cooperatively with a classmate, raise one ' s hand during class discussions, handle teasing on the school bus, or handle disappointment at losing a game during recess. ' re cringing at the thought of more paperwork, you ll take some comfort in If you ' sided sheet of paper. It - s intended to be used as the fact that the ALSUP is one single ' a discussion guide to ensure that school staff members are wearing the right lenses in their views of behaviorally challenging students and that they are identifying information (unsolved problems) that will lead them directly to what they should be doing next (helping students solve thos e problems). The Spectrum of Looking Bad Let ' s turn our attention briefly to a question that, unfortunately, consumes far more time and thought than it should: What do kids do when the clash of the two forces occurs? Something that we — and they — wish they wouldn ' t do. Something on what I call the Spectrum of Looking Bad. To be clear about where I ' m heading, I ' m not a very diagnostically oriented mental health professional. I don ' t think that diagnoses give us much information about the skills a kid lacks o r about the unsolved problems that set in motion his or her challenging behavior. Thus, I don ' t think that diagnoses are the best litmus test for determining whether a student qualifies for special services at school — especially because mental health profes sionals often can ' t even agree on what diagnosis makes
4 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ s why challenging kids often accumulate quite a ' the most sense for a given kid. That " who feel that " few diagnoses. Unfortunately, diagnoses scare away potential helpers . Diagnoses pathologize kids. But the clash of the two they lack the expertise to help forces tells us that it takes two to tango. What behaviors are on the Spectrum of Looking Bad? At the less objectionable end are behaviors such as whining, pouting, sulking, crying, and withdrawing. Mo ving in the more objectionable direction are behaviors that set the stage for a student to be referred into the school discipline program, such as screaming, swearing, hitting, spitting, biting, kicking, throwing, and destroying. At the extreme end of the spectrum are behaviors that are severely injurious to the student or others, such as head - banging, cutting, stabbing, and shooting. But they all occur when the demands placed ' s capacity to adapt. on a student exceed that student us on what a student did when he or she was Although adults tend to foc ' looking bad, I why and when that student did it. The answers m much more focused on to these questions set the stage for effective intervention. Actionable Information ' s easy to become overwhelmed with all the information available about behaviorally It challenging students. They tend to accumulate lots of paper: reports, evaluations, placements, behavior plans, functional assessments, and so on. Of course, that s ' ' led to a positive outcome. often an indication that all that paper hasn t Moreover, the discussions that often take place about challenging students ' t as productive as they could be because they tend to focus on things that we can aren do nothing about. Too often, adults focus on the bad things that h ave happened in a student ' s history and invoke those historical facts as causal: His parents are divorced. (Yes, but so are the parents of many of your well - — behaved students and what can you do about it anyway?) Her mother has some " issues. " (Yes, but so do the mothers of many of your well - behaved students.) He comes from that neighborhood. (Yes, but so do a lot of kids in your building who are well behaved.) She was exposed to substances in utero. (You ' re too late.) He had a forceps delivery. (You ' re still too late.) ' s adopted. She He comes from that foreign country or that neighboring state. Her father ' s in jail. His older brother was a bad egg, too. She ' s rich. He ' s poor. These factors aren ' t completely irrelevant, of course, but if you spend a lot of time in meetings talking about things about which you can do nothing, staff members may
5 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ come to the conclusion that they cannot help the student. If you focus on lagging skills r sense of the and unsolved problems, however, staff members will emerge with a clea ' s challenging behavior. You want to problems they need to solve to reduce a student information — things spend most of your time homing in on and clarifying actionable you can actually do something about. Solving Problems So what are we goi ng to do differently in our school discipline program, now that we know why and when challenging kids are challenging? ' ve completed the ALSUP for a particular student, then we ' If we re already looking through the appropriate lenses, and we ve identified th e unsolved problems ' ' that are reliably and predictably setting in motion the student s challenging behavior. There ' s only one thing left to do, and it ' s the hardest part: We need to start solving those problems. oblems with kids. I call those There are three ways in which adults solve pr options Plans A, B, and C. Plan A Plan A which is very popular in schools (and in lots of other places) — involves — solving problems unilaterally, through the imposition of adult will (and often accompanied by adult - imposed consequences). Unilateral problem solving actually heightens the likelihood of challenging behavior in many students. That s because ' when someone imposes his or her will on you (something about which most of us aren t all that enthusiastic) it requires skills to handle the situation well — skills that ' challenging students often lack . Adding rewards (for complying with adult will) and punishments (for failing to do so) to the mix often just adds fuel to the fire. Moreover, ' t solve problems in the long run and unilateral problem solving frequently doesn doesn ' he skills they lack. t teach challenging kids t Plan B Plan B involves solving problems collaborat ively. I ' m much more enthusiastic about this approach. Plan B is composed of three basic steps. The first — Empathy — involves gathering information from a student to achieve the clearest possible understanding of blem. The second —— Define the his or her perspective on a given unsolved pro Problem — involves entering the adult ' s concern or perspective on the same unsolved problem into consideration. The third — Invitation — is where student and adult brainstorm solutions that are realistic and mutually satisfactory. Re search indicates that the Collaborative Problem Solving model is highly effective (Greene, 2004; Greene, Ablon, & Martin, 2006; Greene, 2010b) at reducing office referrals, detentions, and suspensions. The hard part is getting good at Plan B, which require s bravery, practice, continuity, and excellent communication. And there are many ways in which Plan B can go awry. Sometimes adults are certain they
6 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ s concerns are, so they don ' ' already know what a kid t put any effort into figuring them t clear enough to begin ' out. Sometimes the concerns of the two parties aren ' ve adequately considering potential solutions. You can ' t solve a problem until you concerns. And sometimes adults do a great job of empathizing ' identified both parties with the kid and getting conce rns on the table, but then they suddenly fall back on Plan " " the problem themselves. A and unilaterally solve Plan C Plan C involves dropping some unsolved problems, at least for now. The unsolved problems of behaviorally challenging students have piled up over time, and we can ' t ization is necessary, and low solve them all in one fell swoop. Some priorit priority - unsolved problems the ones that the adults have decided they don ' t need to work on — — fall into Plan C. This keeps everyone from becoming overwhelmed and right now helps adults and students focus on a few unsolved proble ms at a time. An Unsolved Problem: Fighting on the Bus s ' So what does Plan B look like? To see a simulation of an assistant principal progression from ineffective problem solving to Collaborative Problem Solving, go to Plan B Goes Awry, Part I, " " at www.livesinthebalance.org/plan - b - goes - awry - part - 1 . What you ' ll see in Scenario 1 is that in his first discussion with a student who ' s fighting with another student on the school bus (tha t s the unsolved problem), the ' assistant principal is far more consumed with prohibiting (and issuing consequences for) the offensive behavior than with understanding why it happens. He never gives the school rules and then student a chance to express his concerns, simply cites " solution " — a three - day suspension. In this scenario, all three summarily imposes his ingredients of Plan B — empathy, problem clarification, and collaborative problem — solving are missing. e an attempt to find out what In Scenario 2, the assistant principal does mak s ' causing the problem. But instead of waiting for the student ' s response, he suddenly decides for himself: It ' s that " You guys just don ' t care! " Although he made a brief, but insufficient stab at the Empathy step, the other tw o ingredients are still missing. In Scenario 3, the assistant principal asks the student to explain what happens on the bus we find out finally that one boy moves to the other boy ' s seat and taunts — — so we know a little more about the unsolved problem th him an we did before. But the assistant principal then prematurely suggests a solution — that the student just ignore the other student ' s taunting (a common, but almost always ineffective, adult suggestion). We ' re getting closer, but we ' re not there yet. In Scen ario 4, the assistant principal puts significantly more effort into clarifying why these two students aren ' t getting along very well, and we come to understand that they ' ve been competing for the affections of the same classmate. But just as the assistant principal is at the precipice of trying to solve the problem collaboratively, he reverts back to form, bypasses the Invitation step, and imposes an " ingenious "
7 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ I " " This solution draws a predictably negative ' m putting you on a different bus. solution: respo nse from the student. Finally, in Scenario 5, the assistant principal succeeds in inviting the student to s going to happen — solve the problem collaboratively. Instead of deciding what I ' m ' " " — he wonders what will happen: " I ' m wondering going to put you on a different bus ' whether there " Then he and the s a way for you two to work out your bad blood? student come up with a plan to begin solving the problem together. Especially for newcomers, Plan B rarely goes smoothly. If any of the ingredients are missing, co llaboratively solving problems will run aground. If you ' re thinking that your school staff already do a lot of talking and processing with challenging students and don ' t have much to show for it, take note: f you ' You can do a lot of talking and processing, but i re not applying the steps of Plan B then you re probably not solving problems in the long term. And if you ' re thinking ' that Plan B differs from more traditional forms of school discipline that have ' re abs olutely right. consequences as their primary ingredient, you It Takes a Team The behaviorally challenging students being sent with great regularity to the office t the only frequent flyers in the building. The teachers sending them are frequent aren ' p trying on new lenses, coming to the flyers, too. These teachers are going to need hel recognition that it takes two to create an unsolved problem and two to solve it, ' t do it alone, and trying out and practicing realizing that the assistant principal can unfamiliar strategies. Transforming school discip line is a team effort that must be led - reflect, by administrators with vision, energy, focus, perseverance, a willingness to self and an ability to bring people together. Are you wondering about that assistant principal who wanted to make a significant den t in the discipline referrals, suspensions, and detentions in his building? He gathered a core group of staff members and met weekly to discuss frequent flyers ' s attempts at Plan B. By the end of the school year, he had a and review the week ers who had become proficient — as he had done — at using Plan B and group of teach had solved a lot of pr oblems along the way. This year ' s project? To expand the program to other frequent flyers in the building. igh. Both types The cost of doing things the way we have always done them is h of frequent flyers badly need us to change course. References Greene, R. W. (2010a). Collaborative problem solving . In R. Murrihy, A. Kidman, & T. Ollendick (Eds.), A clinician ' s handbook for the assessment and treatment of conduct probl ems in youth. New York: Springer Publishing. Greene, R. W. (2010b). Collaborative problem solving in public schools: Effectiveness and lessons learned. Manuscript submitted for publication.
8 Classroom Management: Understanding Diverse Learning Needs > Module 3 > Reading: Calling All Frequent Flyers ___________________________________________________________________________________________ nnovations: ld psychiatry: use of Greene, R. W., Ablon, S. A., & Martin, A. (2006). chi I collaborative problem solving to reduce seclusion and restraint in child and Psychiatric Services, 57(5), 61 adolescent inpatient units. – 6 16. 0 Greene, R. W., Ablon, J. S., Monuteaux, M., Goring, J., Henin, A., Raezer, L., et al. 004). (2 collaborative problem solving in affectively dy s - Effectiveness of regulated youth with oppositional defiant disorder: Initial findings. Journal of 72 1 ) ,157 Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1,164. ( - Greene, R. W., Biederman, J., Zerwas, S., Monut eaux, M., Goring, J., & Faraone, S. V. (2002). Psychiatric comorbidity, family dysfunction, and social impairment in referred youth with oppositional defiant disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 159 1 ) ,214 – 1,224. ( 1 See The Explosive Child (Harper C ollins, 2010) and Lost at School (Scribner, 2009) for an in - depth discussion of Collaborative Problem Solving. Ross W. Greene is an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, senior lecturer in the Department of Educat ion at Tufts University, and the originator of the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) approach. He is the author of Lost at School (Scribner, 2009 [2nd ed.]) and The Explosive Child (Harper Collins, 2010 [4th ed.]).
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