Pediatric Therapeutic Services

Mastering Middle and High School Behavior Management

Ever wish successful middle and high school behavior management were as simple as flipping a switch?

Female middle school teacher stands at the classroom table supervising three students who are practicing their handwriting.

The adolescent brain is a work in progress. Middle and high school students tend to misread social cues, act on impulse, and not think through the consequences of their actions. No wonder simply enforcing classroom rules and demanding “good behavior” doesn’t work.

Teenage biology and psychology are not on your side! And some students’ disabilities and disorders only compound the challenge. 

At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), we’ve learned teams in well-designed classroom behavior management programs spend 80% or more of their energy focused on prevention. But one Philadelphia charter school reached out for help because their team was mostly reacting to crises that had already happened.

We showed them three key “switches” to flip. These changes led to more effective classroom management. We want to show them to you, too.

School Staff Get “Burned Out” on Behavior Management

At this charter school, as in many middle and high schools, lines between behavior management and discipline were blurring. 

The school was following a fairly typical, disciplinary model. Every day, “Climate Managers” on each floor responded to behavioral flare-ups and crises. Then the Assistant Principal would engage, depending on the severity of the incident. Administrators would create plans to discipline students.

As the academic year wore on, maladaptive behaviors increased, creating a chaotic learning environment where not much student learning was happening!

Many students’ behaviors resulted from co-occurring diagnoses and/or trauma-induced responses. But the school had no effective plan to address and treat multiple variables at the same time. 

No classroom management strategies seemed to counteract the combative, disruptive, and non-compliant incidents. Staff felt “burned out” and ill-equipped to effect change.

So the school’s administrators asked PTS’ Behavioral Health team to help them turn their reactive classroom environments into proactive ones.

Here are the switches we helped them flip to do it.

Switch #1: Moving to Proactive Planning with a Behavior Analyst

Female high school teacher and male student sit at student’s desk, smiling at camera, as student holds a tablet computer.Objectively analyzing all environments in which problem behaviors occur is the first step toward effective middle and high school behavior management. Based on this analysis, staff can create a plan that can be implemented before those problematic behaviors can surface again.

The Climate Managers did a great job asking whether responses to various situations were appropriate. But no one was asking, “What happened immediately before that behavior?” No one was asking, “Did the behavior increase or decrease after your interaction?” Without such analyses, the school had little hope of developing better classroom management strategies

We helped the school’s administration see why engaging a proactive Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) was a good idea.

PTS lets Behavior Analysts take the lead in developing comprehensive behavior management approaches. It’s a more positive, productive experience than the “whack-a-mole” game of running from one functional behavioral assessment (FBA) to the next!

Switch #2: Moving from Consultation to Implementation

Too often, we hear a plan has been developed but “isn’t working.” But is the problem with the plan or its execution?

Real improvement requires a team implement the plan with fidelity and consistently monitor its effectiveness.

As Director of Behavioral Health, I gave this school an onsite assessment and interviewed its staff. This support helped us determine we’d start the school’s team with one behavior specialist and two behavioral technicians.

These team members would have the skills and expertise to develop and implement a school-wide positive behavior support system. They’d be able to do the same for student-specific complex behavior plans with high levels of treatment integrity.

Switch #3: Moving From Dependent to Capable School Staff

Both the school administration and PTS made staff professional development a priority. 

Our behavioral technicians would model how to execute intricate plans for all team members. By daily tracking critical data and generalizing key skills, they built the middle and high school teachers’ confidence in their own ability to manage successful classrooms.

Of all I do with PTS, I find teaching and empowering our clients the most rewarding.

When I present our foundational inservice “The Basics of Reinforcement,” I find school staff often don’t know what reinforcers are or how to assess their effectiveness. But once teachers master a few fundamental principles, they can implement effective classroom management strategies.

And when they do, student engagement tends to go up. Teachers are able to build relationships of respect and trust with their students that yield better educational and behavioral outcomes. 

Move Your Program’s Behavior Management Metrics with PTS

We agreed with school administrators on some key metrics for determining whether our behavior management “redesign” was working at the middle and high school levels. These metrics include baseline counts of how many times:

  • Teachers call the school office for support.
  • Students need to be removed from the classroom.
  • Students are suspended.

The data we collected over the next 10 months showed these metrics moving in the right direction. 

Is your program struggling to meet middle and high school behavior management challenges?

Download your free packet of proven Tier 1 interventions for behavior. Share them with teachers so they can start building more positive classroom environments right away.

Then contact us at 610-941-7020 or online. Discover how PTS can help your program flip behavior management switches to make a world of difference!

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