By Beth Baker, M.S.Ed., and Char Ryan, Ph.D., authors of The PBIS Team Handbook
After a long winter break, school has resumed. In northern climates (where we are from) it continues to be cold and snowy, and there is not much to look forward to. The holidays are over. The newness of the school year has worn off. Pencils are shorter, erasers are gone, markers are missing caps, and some kids have already outgrown their new school clothes. It’s the perfect time to inject some much-needed energy into your school year.
- Fight the drift! Perhaps we get a bit lazier during this time of year. Maybe our expectations start to drift, or maybe we have unintentionally lowered our expectations. Be sure you are still reinforcing the schoolwide expectations. (Char encourages PBIS teams to review these expectations with the entire faculty.) Inviting another teacher into your classroom to do an observation can be a powerful way to hold yourself accountable to shared agreements.
- Energize your staff and students. This might be a great time for the PBIS team to lead the staff meeting with some energizers. Learn some new greetings and activities to stimulate students during advisory class or morning meetings.
- Talk about data. Review behavioral data with your staff. Report on midyear trends, improvements, and declines. Make sure you identify your most important questions about PBIS implementation. Check to be sure you are collecting data that will help you answer your questions about your school and climate.
- Do a reinforcement review. Midway through the year might be the perfect time to research new reinforcements for students. Check out this list of 100 free and unique classroom rewards. And don’t forget about the staff—they might need some new reinforcers as well. Beth worked with a principal who always had a great collection of gifts for teachers (gift cards or gift certificates from surrounding businesses). Often, many teachers only want 15 additional minutes to eat their lunches.
- Reassess. As a PBIS team, look at the action plan you wrote in the beginning of the year. Does it still make sense? Which parts have you achieved and which have fallen off to the side? Does the plan need to be tweaked? Char encourages teams to highlight and celebrate progress on action plans and develop data-based revisions.
- Tell your school’s PBIS story. We suggest that your PBIS team develop a narrative based on the data collected. The narrative summarizes the data, such as office discipline referrals (ODRs) and survey results, and can help you prepare communications for stakeholders at your school (what’s working and what isn’t working). Use this time to check that artifacts are up-to-date and all in one place. Some schools use a three-ring binder, while others might prefer using an online app. There are many creative ways to keep the narrative alive and current using school technology.
This list is by no means exhaustive. The weeks after winter break often feel like a “winter slump,” but returning to school after a long break can also be refreshing. February is a great time to conduct refreshers for students and staff. Paying attention to the things that have worked in your school and the things that haven’t is also a great way to start planning for next fall. It will be here before you know it!
Beth Baker, M.S.Ed., is an independent behavioral consultant and intervention specialist at Minneapolis Public Schools, where she works to create positive behavioral environments for elementary students. She was formerly the lead PBIS coach for a school district in the Minneapolis metropolitan area as well as a special educator working with students who have emotional behavioral disability (EBD) needs.
Char Ryan, Ph.D., is a PBIS coach, evaluation specialist, and Minnesota State SWIS (Schoolwide Information Systems) trainer. She is also a licensed psychologist and consultant with the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health. She is a frequent conference presenter and has been published in numerous journals, including Psychology in the Schools.
Beth Baker and Char Ryan are coauthors of The PBIS Team Handbook: Setting Expectations and Building Positive Behavior.
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