Lost At School

Here are some reflections on Lost at School by Ross Greene.

My thoughts on Chapter 1:

Chapter 1 starts with a story about Joey. Joey is a student who didn’t understand the requirements of a Social Studies project and ended up hurting an administrator and running out of the building when confronted.

On page 1, Mrs. Woods (the teacher) says to Joey: “Joey, the instructions are on the board. How can you not know what to do?”

Ah. Right away, I’m guilty. How often have I said, “How do you still not understand what to do?” or “How many times do I have to tell you?”

Greene says, on page 6, that “what we’ve been thinking about challenging kids–that they’re manipulative, attention-seeking, coercive, unmotivated, limit-testing, and that these traits have been caused by passive, permissive, inconsistent, noncontingent parenting–is way off base most of the time.”

Wow. Again, how many of those things have I said about students? Specifically, how often have I said those things when I’m in a bind and can’t find a solution to a student’s behavior? I think, most often, the things we say about challenging kids (or their parents) are just excuses for us; a way to get out of the hard work that will be teaching replacement behaviors or the thought-process necessary to change behaviors.

I just got a new student, and his behaviors and discussions we’ve had were in the forefront of my mind as I read pages 6 and 7. What are we quick to do with a student who has behavioral difficulties? Give him or her consequences. We don’t always give negative consequences; maybe we give praise and rewards, but if he or she slips, negative consequences are put into place. I did this right away with my new student.

Greene says, “Consequences are wonderful when they work. They are less wonderful when they don’t work. And they often don’t work for the kids to whom they are most frequently applied” (page 7). HOW TRUE IS THAT?

Further, Greene explains that consequences only help with two things:

  • Teaching kids basic lessons about right and wrong ways to behave
  • Giving kids the incentive to behave the “right way”

The important thing that we’re missing, by giving consequences, is that “the vast majority of challenging kids already know how we want them to behave” (page 7).

Greene explains that kids, the majority of the time, know the expectations of the classroom and school. They want to do well. They want to participate just like the other students. They know they aren’t supposed to do certain things at school. Knowing right from wrong isn’t the problem. The problem is, according to Greene, that “kids with behavioral challenges lack important thinking skills” (page 7).

Greene compares this lack of important thinking skills to learning disabilities. Just like a student with a learning disability has difficult mastering the skills required to become proficient in reading, challenging kids have difficulty in mastering the skills required for becoming proficient in handling life’s social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.

Why isn’t our first impulse, when a student displays an unwanted behavior, to teach him or her the appropriate behavior? Why do we so quickly give a consequence? Do we always take the time to ASK a student if he or she knew the appropriate response? Do we ask what his or her thought process was?

“Consequences don’t teach kids the thinking skills they lack or solve the problems that set the stage for their challenging behavior” (page 8).

“The reality is that well-behaved students aren’t behaving themselves because of the school disciple program. They’re behaving themselves because they have the skills to handle life’s challenges in an adaptive fashion” (page 8).

It’s my job as an educator, but especially as a special educator, to help my students understand where they are lacking thinking skills and help them to fill in the gaps. It’s also my job to be my students’ advocate and help his or her teachers understand this as well.

That was only the first chapter. I can’t wait to see how this book changes my thinking and practice with my students with behavioral challenges.

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