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There are several essential elements to helping students successfully develop positive and productive behavioral skills. Culture is key. Consistency is also vital, and consistency requires a schoolwide, systematic approach. What does this mean?

Well, while different grade levels and departments will likely have unique priorities for academic skills and concepts, behavioral expectations, routines, procedures, and processes must be the same across staff, classrooms, and environments for optimal success to be achieved. Students increasingly spend significant amounts of time with multiple educators and staff members throughout the day. We set both students and staff up for frustration when “rules” are different depending on where and with whom a student happens to be. Sure, horizontal and vertical articulation and consistencies are important when planning and preparing for academic teaching and learning; but mindsets, social skills, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors can be and probably should be the same across classrooms, courses, and grade levels. As Farrington and colleagues note: “A students’ sense of belonging, self-efficacy, and interest will be shaped by their experiences in the classroom, their interactions with the teacher and fellow classmates, their prevailing beliefs about their own ability, and the nature of the work they are asked to do.” Establishing and maintaining consistencies for what teachers do to reinforce behaviors, and what students’ behavioral success looks and sounds like, across school campuses is fundamental.

Leadership is critical in all school functions that are intended to significantly improve student outcomes. Administrators listen, learn, serve, and support. In the area of schoolwide behaviors, administrative support is even more critical. First, behavioral expectations and processes are schoolwide; grade level teams, departmental teams, and professional learning community teams are not best positioned to guide this endeavor. Of course, teacher representatives are part of the schoolwide team that leads behavior, but administrators, who have a schoolwide focus, should take the lead. Second, we want grade level teams, departmental teams, and professional learning community teams to focus on teaching and learning within their grade levels and content areas; in these areas, they take the lead. While all staff assumes collective responsibility for nurturing behavioral skills, administrators serve as the “content-area experts.” Lastly, when helping staff help students develop positive behavioral skills, timely and focused follow through is critical. Administrators are in the best position to systematically and proactively accomplish these tasks, getting out of the office, into classrooms, and being present. Stated another way (and at the risk of over-simplifying), teacher teams take the lead on academic skills and concepts, and administrators take the lead on behavioral skills and concepts (even though all staff collaborates on both).

 

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