When I got home from school today I found an Amazon box waiting for me- with my brand new copy of Ross Green's book, Lost at School. His first book, The Explosive Child, is one I refer to all the time. The idea that he wrote a new book specifically addressing how to work with kids who have explosive behaviors in school was just too exciting. (And yes, the book is already out in paper back so I'm a little late to the party, but at least I'm here now!)
I immediately jumped into it (while my poor two year old was distracted by potty training her baby dolls).
I haven't read much, but I was already struck by a few ideas.
1. We have to shift our thinking from "Kids will do well if they want to" to "Kids will do well if they can." "Kids will do well if they want to" implies that they are intentionally misbehaving and that it is our job to cajole, manipulate and encourage them to behave, where "kids will do well if they can" gets us to think about the skills the student needs in order to behave. It stops us from thinking about how we need to motivate or punish the child and instead gets us to think about how we can teach the child the missing skills so that they are able to do well. (pg 10-11)
2. Are consequences (logical, natural, positive or negative) actually effective? Green writes, "...consequences only remind kids of what we don't want them to do, and give them the incentive to do something more adaptive instead. But they (the kids) already know what we don't want them to do, and they're already motivated to do something more adaptive instead. They need something else from us."
Consequences will have no impact if we haven't helped the students get the skills they need to follow the rules. Kids know what the rules are, and they know we want them to behave, but if they do not have the skills to do so then how can they follow through? Consequences will only serve to frustrate them more.
So much of what we do in schools can be reactive. Even our proactive strategies aren't always focused on teaching missing skills. I'm really excited to dive into the book to read Green's suggestions on identifying and teaching the skills. Stay tuned for more...