Posted by: darcymullin | November 23, 2011

(Not So) Lost at School

In an earlier post I mentioned that our staff was embarking on a book study on Dr. Ross Green’s Lost at School.  To date we have had two book talks and it is beginning to revolutionize the way we deal with challenging students at our school.

Why do I think it is going to change the way we deal with challenging kids?  First almost our entire staff has come to both meetings.  Not because they were expected to, but because they wanted to.  All it took was an invitation from Betty-Ann Xenis.  The fact that essentially everyone turned out speaks to the  importance of collaborative relationships and the culture of learning that exists at our school.  I am so proud to work with a staff that is so reflective, willing to learn and committed to kids.

These were my notes from the first discussion.  These are not my words, but are merely some of the notes I took as people took turns sharing.

  • “Kids do well if they can.  The book has really shifted my thinking and has changed the way I view behaviour in my class.”
  • “When challenging behaviour emerges, we should view kids through the lens of lagging skills and unsolved problems.”
  • “We need to help kids shelve their emotions so they can think rationally.”
  • “We don’t remediate social skills like we do academic skills…but we should.”
  • “If we believe kids do well if they can, then it forces us to move away from the blame paradigm.”
  • “Too often kids are misunderstood and over punished.”
  • “In the end, it all  boils down to relationships.”

Our second discussion focused on how we deal with unmet expectations (traditional misbehaviour). Dr. Green says there are three approaches: Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.   In simple terms Plan A is when adults impose their will on students…traditional consequences for behaviour (detentions, suspensions etc.).  Plan C is when we drop the expectation completely and ignore what the student is doing, at least temporarily.  If the student is not harming anyone or anything ignore what is happening until there is a better time to address it.  Plan B refers to Collaborative Problem Solving.  This is when the student and adults work together in partnership to come up with a mutually agreeable plan of action.  Plan B was our focus and is what I believe will revolutionize the way we deal with our most challenging students.

The discussion was moving.  As teachers shared the way they are trying to implement Plan B with their students you could feel the dedication and empathy in the room.  It was emotional as people shared their stories openly and honestly.  There was many comments that talked about slowing down, being empathetic toward the student and engaging in reflective listening.  It was powerful to hear teachers share how they had been making progress with their students as they empowered them through a collaborative process.  One teacher commented on the fact that reading the book caused them to reflect on their practice and shift from Plan A to Plan B and it made all the difference.  They are no longer at their wits end.  The student is not “fixed”, but there is progress  being made and everyone is learning.

Granted, we are in our infancy in our learning (we are only 1/2 through the book!), but the commitment of staff to learn has us very excited about the journey we are on.  There are no quick fixes and there will be many challenges along the road, but to me this comment says it all:

Kids do well if they can.  Yes they do.



  1. Thanks for your posts and reflections on this book. My colleague first told me about Greene’s book last Spring, and since then I’ve seen others blog about it.

    Today at an admin inservice the presenters touched on elements of the book, and then we were given our own copies to take away.

    I look forward to digging into it, and seeing how my own reflections connect with yours.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I am interested to hear the reaction of you and your colleagues as you move through the book. I realize there are no easy answers, but it seems crazy to continue trying the same interventions again and again and expect different results.

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