It’s Wednesday. As established for this blog, Wednesdays are for sharing ‘the word’ on something education.
You all know my love is behavior management. You all know I don’t approve of behaviorist approaches and I
think hope the whole PBIS movement is a passing phase. I fear it’s damaging roots have eaten holes in our foundation and the walls are crumbling all around our students. But it will pass as all things do in schools.
Except, all things don’t pass in schools, do they? If they did, wouldn’t we be teaching using only UDL and all that brain based research that has been done? Wouldn’t we have moved eons past behavior charts and detentions and homework in elementary school? Wouldn’t we have moved away from grades and standardized testing, and bell schedules?
Anyway, the trends of these times are PBIS and RTI. Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports and Response to Intervention. You all know the whole 3 tier diagram that illustrates levels of intervention and how we are supposed to systematically move through each one using data to drive our decisions about what support to provide for kids. PBIS is supposed to help with that. It aligns to the tiers in RtI.
And you know, in theory anyway, this seems like a no brainer.
In practice, not so much. Oh, I know many of you will disapprove of what I am saying. There are some real loyal PBIS followers. It seems reasonable that if we systematically teach, evaluate and intervene, all students will get what they need and all will be well. Their claim is that all decisions are data driven.
But data collection and interpretation are not as pure as one might initially believe. And who decides what data to collect and how? And who is interpreting the data? This is not fool proof. Not by a long shot. Think about it. Too often we are watching and collecting data about things that just don’t matter because we have not taken time to fully understand each student as an individual. Because we just don’t know better or we don’t question our beliefs about what is important or intolerable, maladaptive.
But I argue it is not working. And here is why.
There are way too many variables in schools to be as systematic as PBIS wants us to be.
Schools are full of people.
Yep. Little people, big people, rich people, poor people, smart people, uninformed people, rigid thinkers and free spirits. They are full of students, teachers, volunteers, administrators, social workers, school psychs, special and general ed teachers and paraprofessionals. They are full of active people and slug bugs, sensitive people and not so sensitive people. They are full of diversity and differing philosophies. Every person in our schools has a different life experience, a different interpretation of the world, a different way of being in the world.
And I say that is an incredible thing.
But the reality is that when we try to embrace a movement based on manipulating all kids to behave the same way, we are just too close to squashing individuality and honoring kids as they are.
And that is a very dangerous place to be.
This need to control, this emphasis on making kids conform, is such a distraction from what really matters.
And I will say it again.
All will be well in schools when we quite simply use compassion, common sense, and critical thinking.
Until then, I am trying to ride this whole movement out (without burning too many bridges).