If you were to pick up a textbook on educational methodology and looked through it you would find models that educators have used for years. And I mean for years. A current textbook will have the same models in it that were considered current forty years ago. In the past these models were proven to help educators deal with student academic and behavioral performance and were part of the intervention process when students struggled with social, emotional, and conduct issues. Educators have used these models with some success but, as we have moved through the generations these models have suffered from what I call over use injury. The models haven’t changed but student behavior has, and the models have been used more now as a crutch than an intervention and do very little to help educators deal with the chronic behavioral issues in their schools. Behaviors such as disrespect, irresponsibility, bullying, violence, power struggles, lack of student motivation, clinical issues such as depression and ADHD and other issues were all problems that educators faced many years ago, but the intensity and frequency of these behaviors has become now the norm and not the exception. Let me make something very clear; an intervention is only an intervention if student behavior changes. Using an intervention that students are now immune to will only ceremoniously allow educators to say that something is being done; whether it works or not. So, what are these models? There are four of them, the biological/organic model, the behavioral model, the environmental model, and the psycho-educational model. All of them had their advantages many years ago, but now they suffer from what I call over use injury and may only work in a very controlled environment such as prison, or an inpatient psychiatric unit. Let me spell out for you how these models were used and are used now and help you understand how intergenerationally students have adapted to these interventions and why they no longer net the same results that they did in the past.
The Organic/Biological Model
Our bodies can at times suffer from organic imperfections that can cause high blood pressure, cancer, stroke, or other diseases that can be treated with medications or other medical interventions that basically can keep a person alive. The wonders and the evolution of medicine have increased society’s life span by more than 15 years since the 1940’s, and is a necessary commodity if a person wants to maintain quality of life. Usually a blood or other test reveals the cause of certain symptoms that prompts the doctor to place his/her patient on medication to lower blood pressure or aid in the relief of those symptoms. Children who are behavioral problems have too often been treated with Ritalin or other psychotropic drugs as a means of controlling out of control behavior and all too often these drugs are used as the first resort and not the last. As an administrator I have called many parents about their child’s behavior only to be told that the child didn’t take his pill that morning or that the prescription has run out and they have to get to the doctor or the pharmacy for a refill. The debate is not whether or not to medicate a child, rather the debate is what the medication does to a child and is medication the only answer. Those in the mental health industry will tell you that therapy along with medication nets the best result when dealing with a client, it would seem rather apparent that medication along with fair, firm, and consistent discipline that is balanced with rules and compassion would net the best result in education as well. The truth is the so called quick fix may be what we are looking for. A person with high blood pressure has to take responsibility for his own health by walking, eating right, and watching his weight; this along with medication will help to lower his blood pressure. Students need to take responsibility for their behavior through the imposition of consequences, if not the only thing educators can expect is temporary relief, not permanent help.
Parents who discover that their son or daughter may have ADHD are at times relieved to find this out because they then can transfer the burden of responsibility to the school who they will claim doesn’t understand their child’s condition and can very easily convert the reasons for the child’s unruly behavior to an excuse. Once excuses are used behavioral problems escalate and by default we can unwittingly agree with the behavior as it hides behind the condition. In reality it may not be a condition at all rather, a learned behavior.
The organic/biological model can at times cause educators to lower their expectations for student behavior as well. As a teacher I would meet parents at conferences only to discover that the parent in their own way had the same personality characteristics as their child. This discovery would send me to the faculty room crying out “I know now why Joe is the way he is, I just met his father or mother and they’re as weird as he is.” I will admit that once this happened I saw no hope and began to lower my expectation for the student. Genetics only influence student behavior, they don’t determine it. A person can change their response to the influences of poor genetics and begin to unlearn some of the behaviors that are interfering with his/her learning. Students need to be taught how to rise above any genetic imperfection and this can only happen when we increase our expectations. Lowering expectations will only give the student the idea that they are incapable of not behaving in a manner that is acceptable to a family, a school, or society in general.
The Behavioral Model
When students or even adults contemplate certain actions they do so based upon two very important outcomes. What am I going to gain, and what am I going to lose. If the lose is great enough the risk might be too high. If the risk is at a minimum they may jump in feet first. If the consequence from the loss is too great they may evaluate taking that risk again. Students are in a constant state of evaluation and ask themselves these questions when they are thinking about doing something that could result in some uncomfortable consequences. For students who lack good judgment and are always involved in some type of misconduct educators use a behavioral approach and place the student on a behavior modification program. In other words they receive a reward for acting and behaving in appropriate ways as opposed to exhibiting poor judgment. If I understand this correctly students are rewarded when they change their behavior; which makes sense. But, what about the students who exhibit positive behaviors all the time, where is their reward? To the students who are always on the right track it would be to their advantage to act up and then change their behavior once they receive their reward. Behavior modification does work, but it is so extrinsic that students can’t maintain their positive behavior once the rewards stop coming. Many years ago students were rewarded for going above and beyond the behavioral expectations of the teacher, now students are rewarded for what they should be doing anyway, such as staying in their seat or being on time for school. Because of the over use injury that this model has sustained kids look to be rewarded for anything and everything. The students feel good about themselves for no apparent reason, it is a temporary fix, and once the novelty of the reward wears off the behavior continues. In addition the stakes have been raised with children in homes being given high end items for doing something that in years past would have been viewed as daily household chores. The same is true with the use of praise. A student could exhibit positive behavior for a day or two and the teacher falls all over this child with an avalanche of positive comments that do nothing more than put pressure on the student to continue to live up to expectations that he/she is incapable of. Praise if given too frequently can become like white noise in the mind of the student with him or her almost not believing the comments themselves. Praise needs to be given on a 1-9 ratio, for every one correction there needs to be nine statements of praise doled out. With ten months in the school year that should be one solid comment of praise once a month. In between educators need to strengthen their relationship with their students by practicing the 2X10. Two minutes a day for 10 days straight a conversation needs to take place with a student that is the most unlikeable and unruly. This conversation will strengthen the student/teacher bond and by the eighth day the student will be looking for the conversation. This breeds respect which if not present no amount of praise will change student behavior.
The Environmental Model
As a special educator I used the environmental model much of the time. My students needed to work at desks that had blinders on them, use head phones, and were given individual instruction. With behavior problems the students were spread out all over the room to avoid verbal confrontations. The environmental model worked. By today’s standard the environmental model has taken on a whole different meaning. Parents request that their child’s schedule be changed because they are not getting along with the teacher or other students in the class. Students are now given individual personal aids to monitor them because their behavior is so out of control. No Child Left Behind standards now have teachers preparing individual lessons for many students in their room with two or three teachers in the room to aid with instruction. The environment has been modified to a point where more emphasis is placed on the 20% of the students with difficulty rather than on the 80% who want and deserve a quality education. The environmental model suffers from severe over use injury and no longer is used in education for what it was intended for. In reality environments are not modified for adults in the work environment. Oh, if an individual has a disability and needs modifications to perform their job duties they are protected under law but no employer will modify an environment due to an individuals poor social skills or lack of motivation. A person with this type of profile will provide all the evidence that will support the employer’s belief and they most times will be terminated. The environmental model needs to be used as an intervention to improve student performance not offer a way out due to poor behavior or social inadequacies.
The Psycho-Educational Model
When a student’s behavior is out of control what factors in the student’s life do we have to consider? Some educators may consider the following: The parent’s are going through a messy divorce, alcoholism in the family, the student broke up with his/her boyfriend or girlfriend, low IQ, or they didn’t make a spots team. Which of these factors need to be considered? The truth is none of them. That is of course if you are a teacher. A social worker, behaviorist, or school psychologist would consider them all, and there in lies the problem. Teachers and support staff like the ones mentioned never have and never will get along in a school environment: why: because teachers seek consequences for inappropriate behavior and social workers et.al. seek reasons. This model has been over used and has suffered injury due to the fact that accountability for poor behavior has taken a back seat behind the guise of reasons which have become excuses. This model used to work well when teachers balanced their rules and regulations with compassion and understanding. That’s when the teacher did it all and offered an understanding ear after the student was disciplined. The minute that two people enter the discipline process a bad marriage begins to form with two very different philosophies being used. Students know this and just like parenting when mom says no ask dad, when the teacher is viewed as unfair enter the mental health professional to soothe the soul that feels maltreated. Some students need therapy and should receive it but it needs to be balanced with an environment that offers real world consequence.
The psycho-educational model has been misused and widely misunderstood by educators. The core psycho-educational principle is education has a role in emotional and behavioral change. . The rationale behind a psycho-educational approach is that, with a clear understanding of the mental condition, and self-knowledge of own strengths, community resources, and coping skills, the individual is better equipped to deal with the problem and to contribute to his or her own emotional well-being. Consequently, improved awareness of causes and effects leads to improved self-efficacy (the person believing that he is able to manage the situation), and improved self-efficacy leads to better self-control. In other words, the person feels less helpless about the situation and more in control of himself or herself. This model if used correctly can make a difference in the lives of students and parents as long as in the process of disciplining students educators and other mental health professionals work together in understanding a student’s diagnosis and use that diagnosis to educate and improve student accountability and not excuse unruly behavior behind a condition.
New York City Schools Now Ban Butter
Okay, we have now entered The Twilight Zone. The City of New York’s department of education has concluded that butter is a threat to its school children and will severely discipline cafeteria workers who order this now banned substance and use it for preparing school meals. Mayor Michael Bloomberg leads this charge I’m sure, just as he led the failed charge to stop the sale of extra large sodas in the city. He’s worried about kids becoming obese. This is the same Michael Bloomberg who was the master of ceremonies at this year’s hot dog eating contest on Coney Island. In his speech during this glutinous event he stated that he was honored to be there to support these great eaters. What a hypocrite.
Childhood obesity, it’s the schools fault right? I don’t think so. Quite frankly I am sick of the schools getting blamed for what goes on in a dysfunctional society. Neil Cavuto a news caster for Fox News had fitness guru Jack LaLanne on his show about three years ago. The interview took place the day before the biggest eating day of the year, Thanksgiving. He posed the question to Jack; “Jack what we are going to do about this problem of childhood obesity and diabetes.” Jack emphatically answered; “The first thing we have to do is to get all the junk out of the schools.” Excuse me Jack, is it the schools fault these kids are overweight? Furthermore, not all kids are overweight, and should not have to be put on an institutional diet consisting of carrot sticks, and raisins. The kids who are going to eat junk food were introduced to it in their home by their parents and developed a taste for it long before they got to school. Sure, bar it from school, they’ll eat it at home.
Parents today are banned from coming into school with cupcakes to give to the teacher for a birthday celebration for their child. They almost have to go through a cupcake detector before they enter the building. It’s easier to get into the building with an automatic weapon then to sneak in with a pan of cupcakes. If Bloomberg is so worried about the health of our children then ban cigarette sales. He won’t because the taxes from cigarette sales support the city’s economy.
The Gestapo tactics that are being used by Bloomberg and the city’s department of ed. are the same things educators discourage kids from using when interacting with their peers; threats, intimidation, bullying, and control. Greg Floyd, president of Local 237 Teamsters, which represents the kitchen managers, said it best when he stated, “We understand the need for healthy meals, but we do not appreciate the administration bullying our members without giving them instructions on how to prepare meals” (Daily News Article) http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education-department-cracks-butter-cafeteria-article-1.1339986.
As a society and as a culture the focus has been placed on the wrong things and in the wrong place. Will banning butter create a kinder, caring, and more respectful learning environment? Will restricting a person’s personal dietary freedom eliminate behavior problems, violence, disrespect, and bullying from our schools or moreover from our culture? Stop the insanity, stop majoring in minors and realize that narrow minded politicians are trying to legislate morality and are becoming a bigger problem then butter could ever be for our children and our society.
IDENTIFY the difference between jokes and serious statements.
CHOOSE friends with caution. Friends can be bullies, too.
WALK AWAY because your self respect is important to your well-being.
ACCEPT an apology from a bully only when you feel they deserve it.
EXPRESS your feelings appropriately, don’t let it get to the point where you seek revenge.
DOCUMENT any acts of bullying that you observe because journaling can help in problem solving
PARTICIPATE in activities that you enjoy and that you do well.
SEEK HELP and don’t take overwhelming matters into your own hands.
ARCHIVE threatening text, emails, or facebook post in case they’re ever needed later.
FACE your fears by asking yourself what you are really afraid of.
Psychologists used to believe that bullies have low self-esteem, and put down other people in order to feel better about themselves. While many bullies are themselves bullied at home or at school, new research shows that most bullies actually have excellent self-esteem. Bullies usually have a sense of entitlement and superiority over others, and lack compassion, impulse control and social skills. They enjoy being cruel to others and sometimes use bullying as an anger management tool, the way a normally angry person would punch a pillow. Research does support the fact that bullies have low empathy, and they really don’t know how it feels to be in someone else’s shoes.
A bully is motivated by power. He/she is very clever and can victimize anyone. He likes controlling other students, and sometimes likes controlling his/her parents and teachers as well. As long as the bully is able to manipulate another person or a situation, his/her self-esteem remains high. Once a bully loses control of their victim, or realizes that they can’t manipulate situations to their liking they begin to experience problems with their self esteem and they will then seek out other people to manipulate and control to raise their self-esteem. It almost becomes an emotional fix that they need in order to feel good about themselves.
Intervention programs usually work to help the victim, and rightly so, the victim needs assistance in dealing with the person who is bullying them. In working with the bully we need to help the bully find things that will help him keep a consistent self-esteem index. Everyone has ups and downs in life, and bullies should experience the same ebbs and flows that are associated with becoming an adult. A bully’s self esteem cannot be based on how they treat others. If clear lines are not drawn and the bully is allowed to continue his behavior without consequence we are doing nothing more than prepare him for prison.
Yes, everybody does know. In this world of dysfunction, deviance and denial how could anyone not know? In the world of education there are things that go on that are so obvious that denying them is just embarrassing and we all should be red faced. There is an 800 pound gorilla in the room and he is being ignored and the path of least resistance is being taken. What are these things that educators, parents and society knows but for some reason won’t discuss or won’t even admit? Let me share with you my thoughts on ten things that everybody knows.
Everybody Knows: That disrespect is pervasive in society. Students aren’t corrected for it and they become adults who believe that they can say and do whatever they want. And that includes instilling the fear of God into a teacher who tries to correct their kid. Teachers complain about it, but no one talks about the problem. Why? Because this fear ascends the ranks and school administrators and even the superintendent live in fear of irate parents. No one confronts and everybody runs. The schools are controlled by 20% of the parents with the biggest mouth, and the most threatening attitudes and behaviors.
Everybody Knows: That no one has self control. Have you looked at the condition of society? 1 in 4 homes are in foreclosure. I guess we can blame the banks, or can we? Everybody wants something bigger and better. To get bigger and better the money has to be made to get it, unless the bank doesn’t care. But, in the final analysis the decision is made by the buyer. Teenage obesity, diabetes, addiction, alcoholism, are all evidence of the lack of self control in society. And oh, did I mention anger issues and the left over bitterness from childhood that gets carried into adulthood reeking havoc on families. Society has lost control of its thoughts, its words, and its actions. Everybody knows. What produces a nation of people with self-control, consequences do. Unfortunately many people are sitting in that leaking boat right now and are experiencing the consequences of a lack of self control.
Everybody Knows: That we have medicalized education and have gotten to the point where meds are the first choice in treating behavior problems not the last. Oh, don’t get me wrong medication has proven to help kids with ADHD or ODD. Talk to any therapist though and they will tell you that medication in combination with therapy is the plan that nets the best result. In schools meds are relied on too heavily, and need to be used in combination with solid discipline and effective consequences. Realistically though where were ADHD and ODD 40 years ago? They didn’t exist or they weren’t invented yet. Why, because kids with behavior problems were few and far between. Authority was respected by parents and students. What happens when we discover that disrespect is now the norm and not the exception, we create a condition to support the behavior. If a kid acts up today it is usually attributed to the fact that he doesn’t take his medication consistently, when in reality he is not being disciplined effectively.
Everybody Knows: That the statement, “I like you, but don’t like your behavior” is a lie. Be honest you don’t like the kid. The truth is we are all are measured by our behavior. I own my behavior, I am my behavior. Like me but not my behavior, stop it. There are some adults that we don’t like because of their behavior, we might be married to one, are kids any different. The truth is I don’t like you because of your behavior, and I go home every night praying that you take the next day off.
Everybody Knows: That years ago the only thing we wanted was for a kid to obey, now it’s the last thing we get. As a matter of fact obedience has become a dirty word. The educational gurus who have spent their time attacking education from a theoretical standpoint, but never really spent any time interacting in a classroom with a group of wild kids liken the word obedience to dog training. They fear that we will destroy the creative side of a kid’s brain by not allowing him to choose and by forcing obedience. Okay already, let’s change obedience to compliance. The definition; doing what you are told when you are told to do it, with a good attitude. The NJ Turnpike has a sign posted right after you pay the toll, it reads; You have left the NJ Turnpike OBEY local speed laws. I guess we only have to obey as we get older.
Everybody Knows: That we lie to kids, and we have inflated their grades because we don’t want to destroy their self esteem. By the way, what is self esteem? Today kids feel good about themselves for no apparent reason. It is almost impossible to be left back, and if a kid has low test scores the teacher always gets the blame. So we let the kid know that he is doing great academically, inflate his grades and give him a false sense of his academic ability. Don’t worry someone will tell him, like the college he will be trying to get into in a few years. Then for sure everybody will know including him.
Everybody Knows: That excuses are built around circumstance, environmental and genetic circumstance. Crimes get committed and circumstance is always brought up. Tough up bringing, or he was raised on the wrong side of the tracks are just two excuses used. We are determined, that’s who we are, and we can’t change. Circumstances only influence they don’t determine behavior. Provide enough excuses for anyone and they will provide you the evidence to support your belief. Teachers have been forced to excuse behavior by a dysfunctional system. A system that has been shoe horned into education by a dysfunctional society.
Everybody Knows: That parents need parenting. The question is who is going to do it? After speaking to hundreds of parents about their children what I discovered was they don’t talk to their own parents. They lack discipline skills and are so angry and lost that they take out their rage on their own kids. Three generations of dysfunction. Everyone knows it, and talks about it, but no one knows what to do about this disaster that Everybody Knows.
Everybody Knows: That kids don’t fear anything today. As a matter of fact parents fear their kids more then kids fear their parents. Systemic discipline is just a slap on the wrist and dysfunctional schools fight dysfunctional families. While all of this is going on the kids watch, laugh, and say and do what they want without any real consequence.
Everybody Knows: That kids have lost their ability to get along and are rapidly becoming adults who have matured physically, but not mentally, or emotionally. Society has been taught to disagree, but with the wrong attitude, so don’t disagree with me or I won’t like you. Disagreements are things that get walked away from because of the fear of conflict. The idea that a productive conflict could exist and the two parties involved could leave enough space between them for a disagreement is too tough to imagine because egos are just too big. Win-Win, can’t happen because someone always has to win and someone has to lose. Don’t talk too loud now because someone will hear, and even your whispers will get back to the wrong person, like your boss who will muzzle you and make sure that you always walk the line of political correctness. EVERYBODY KNOWS that we are all victims of bullies and we will be for a lifetime. We still fear man and the man with power determines how intense that fear will be. EVERBODY KNOWS that bullying is intergenerational and for it to go away, which it never will it is not about the 20% of kids who bully right now in our schools, communities and families it is about what they become as adults.