Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Power of Positive

Right before winter break, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at my school about positive behavioral intervention and supports, also known as PBIS.  This wasn't the first time that I had attended a training on PBIS, as my previous school when I was an administrator was a PBIS school.  However, while the concept of PBIS is good for all schools, it is something that is especially useful at the alternative school environment, similar to what I am doing at the current time.  While much of the training was something that I was already aware of, I got some great things out of the training to try out with my students over the course of the past few weeks.  

The textbook that we used
in my Principles of
Coaching class back in 2004.   
It is no secret that positive interactions with people are going to bear more fruit than negative interactions.  You can look at the old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar" and apply it to education.  I also think back to a class that I took in college that was part of my minor program, a class called Principles of Coaching (my minor in college was Physical Education with a coaching emphasis, I coached various sports, mostly football, for 9 years before taking a hiatus that has now lasted almost 5 years; I miss coaching, but there is also a lot about it I don't miss, namely being able to spend more time with my family).  One of my coaches, Herb Greinke, was the instructor and the focus of the class was coaching and teaching through positive interactions, rather than the "old school" way of the screaming, chair throwing coach reminiscent of Bobby Knight.  I still remember that class very well, the textbook that we used, and the feedback that Coach Greinke gave me throughout that class. 

Fast forward to my current position teaching PE at a behavior school.  Most days can be very tough.  You have students that come from broken homes and often times have struggled with adult authority throughout their lives.  However, my bad days with students are very few and far between, and I credit that strictly to my ability to remain positive with students.  I make sure that I am interacting with students on a regular basis, asking students how their day is going, what kinds of plans they have for weekends, how they are doing in their classes, etc.  It is also essential to praise students for a job well done.  However, what the PBIS training got me thinking about was making that praise more substantial.  It's easy to be positive by telling a student, "Good job!", but it goes a lot farther if you can be more specific with the praise, such as,"I appreciate that you came to class today on time and participated in our activity!"  It is also helpful that rather than reprimanding a student for infractions, redirecting a student will be more effective.  Many of my students are used to using foul language on a regular basis, so rather than taking points away from a student's point sheet or writing a referral for language, I remind students of the school's expectations regarding language and often times, a student will self-correct.  

I get that this isn't my most groundbreaking post of all time.  If you are reading this, it's probably glaringly obvious that positive will go a lot further than negative.  However, if you are like me, you may have gotten into a mode where your positive feedback is too impersonal.  By harnessing the power of positive, tailoring it to your students in a personal manner, and making positive a part of every moment in your classroom, you will make a lasting impact on even the more difficult students.  

Until next time...