5 Ways You Can Take a Supportive Stance in Your Classroom

September 7, 2017
Open book in a classroom setting

We kicked off our back-to-school week with a set of practical PBIS-focused tips from our good friend, Jane Butke, M.A. E/BD. In this second post together, we continue our conversation with a Q&A that pairs evidence-based PBIS strategies with real life experience that can help staff at all levels of education support student success and strengthen school culture.
Jane Butke started her career in special education in 1976 in the Milwaukee Public School system, and has since worked across the state of Wisconsin. She became a CPI Certified Instructor in 1986, and achieved Master Level status before retiring from full-time teaching in 2014. She now works as a homebound and credit recovery teacher. With just over 30 years in the field of special education, and having personally instructed over 1,000 hours of Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training, Jane’s perspective on crisis prevention in the classroom comes at a critical time as many students, educators, staff and paraprofessionals return to the classroom to begin a new year together.

How and why did you become a Certified Instructor in your school system?

Originally, I took CPI training because of the number of staff members that were experiencing physical aggression towards them. We discovered that those staff were responding to behaviors once the child lost rationality. A typical instance would be of standing in front of the door to prevent them from leaving the room.
I was so impressed by the 4-day Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® workshop, I was able to convince my direct supervisor to get his training. I was certified as an instructor around 1986. We did 3-6 trainings per year, for about 15 years, then as I transitioned into different programs, I wasn’t able to train. However, I soon found a way to get back into it. I couldn’t even guess how many folks I have trained at different facilities.
[Editor’s note: We did research this—we can confirm that Jane has facilitated over 1,000 hours of CPI training for hundreds of individuals in her career! Way to go, Jane!]

As a teacher, what were your favorite elements of Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training and why?

When I trained staff, I enjoyed teaching the levels of escalation within the Crisis Development Model, and the appropriate staff intervention for each. Before I got training myself, I recognized the Anxiety level, but did not know how to appropriately intervene. As a result, I was not meeting the anxious child's needs, and chances are I wouldn’t realize it until they escalated into Risk Behavior.
I am a firm believer in "front loading" a program so that you can reduce the likelihood of students’ behavior escalating. If you look for the patterns in challenging behavior, you’ll also find solutions, too. For example, in studying one student’s behavior patterns, I realized limit setting would help re-direct her and get her back on track in class. This student expressed her need to control situations both verbally and physically. There was a day in which I set an expectation in the classroom, and she told me that it was too boring. I repeated the directions, and verbally reinforced the rest of the class for working so hard. I then shared the positive option that those who finished would be able to go to outdoor recess several minutes early. Needless to say, this bright young lady was able to complete her assignment quickly!

What strategies really work when it comes to integrating CPI training into the special education/alternative education classroom?

1. Solidify your team approach.
A solid team is so important! Typically, any given school district or facility provides a handbook that includes specific expectations for each staff member. I would go over that with your paraprofessionals and support staff, and add additional expectations. Continuous dialogue is essential for a solid team. Each member should feel comfortable in contributing ideas. While the teacher is ultimately responsible for the program, mutual respect is crucial.
2. Set up a seating plan based on what you’ve learned about behavior and its Precipitating Factors.
After reading the students' information, I could make some predictions about what behaviors I might expect to see. Who might display evasive behavior, or aggressive behavior? Who might need more personal space, or the safety of a study carrel? How could the seating pattern be developed to provide quiet areas, learning centers, and a socialization section?
3. Establish a classroom that supports effective interventions for Anxiety.
It’s key to consider those students that might have a more sensitive neurological system, and might appear to be in some state of Anxiety at any given time. Adjustments can be made to the classroom environment that provide calmness for all senses. Soft music, a small fountain, a fish tank, or even aromatherapy—these are just a few ideas that might give these students comfort.
4. Class rules can be a roadmap.
Rules should be practical to enforce, and should be stated in positive terms. For ease of learning, just five to seven rules total is optimal. Think about the behaviors you want to reinforce, and how you identify those when you state your rules. For example: “No running in hallways!” Does that mean that one could hop, skip, or jump, as long as they aren’t running? It’s so much easier set the rule that all students will WALK in the hallways. And it’s so much easier to discuss the rules when the students are thinking rationally, so lay them out early on as part of your class agenda.
Along with the rules, I would list positive and negative consequences according to compliance with the rules and expectations posted.

[Editor’s note: The CPI Instructor Community is an excellent place for Certified Instructors to share their best tips for setting limits in the classroom, brainstorm solutions to real-life scenarios, and get much needed encouragement and support.]
5. Expect back-to-school jitters, and prepare for how you’ll support Anxious students.
As we learn in the COPING Model, behavior has a pattern. Behavioral issues may occur within the first day or two; pay careful attention to them. If proactive plans need to be tweaked; address those during the postvention meeting. By utilizing the Verbal Continuum Model, a written plan can be developed for each student. This works especially well for the more nonverbal, aggressive student.
Staff can have predetermined roles as behavior escalates. Care, Welfare, Safety, and Security is the primary goal for all involved. Throughout my career, most issues I’ve observed have centered around a lack of communication or experience.

If these ideas have you motivated to implement supportive strategies in your own classroom, download our free resource included with this post! We break down key strategies for each layer of PBIS implementation, connect you with the top 10 PBIS Resources, and share an On-Demand presentation on integrating CPI training with PBIS to decrease problem behaviors among the individuals you serve.

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