Posted by: darcymullin | May 3, 2013

A Little (less) Lost at School

I have written before about our involvement in Ross Greene’s Collaborative Problem Solving Model.  Recently the group got together and talked about what we learned and some of the big picture ideas that we walked away with.  We shared our thoughts with our staff, but I also thought it would be worthwhile to share them in this forum.

I have shared the slides from our presentation and provided context for each.

Kids do well if they can

Last year our staff did a book study on Dr. Greene’s “Lost at School” and philosophically this is a mindset we entered the project with.  The idea that kids do well if they can is simple, but when the rubber hits the road it gets difficult.  When dealing with maladptive behaviour, it is hard not to label it as manipulative, attention seeking or even blame the parents for lack of boundaries at home.  However, through many difficult and reflective conversations we have really come to believe that at the root of difficult behaviour is a problem that needs to be solved and a developmental skill that the student has missed along the way.

the past is just that

When dealing with difficult behaviours, rewards and consequences don’t work.

If they did, a time out, detention, suspension etc. would rectify the problem.  I think we can all agree that for our most challenging students they don’t.  Does it give some respite? Yes, but that’s it.  Putting the student back into the same situation with the same skill set is setting everyone up for failure.  Collaborative Problem Solving is a treasure hunt to find out what is getting in the students way.  Kids don’t enter school at 5 years old thinking, “This is going to suck! I am going to make everyone’s life, including mine miserable.”  If they are UNABLE to manage their behaviour it is incumbent on us to find out WHY.


Labels and diagnosis get in the way of CPS.  Often when a child struggles we explain it away with a diagnosis – ADHD, autism etc.  I’m not saying that these are not valid conditions, but when we use labels it lets us off the hook and has us focusing on the wrong things.  Instead of focusing on its antecedents, we are looking at the outcomes of behaviour.  Ultimately, reacting to the behaviour will not yield results.

proactive vs reactive

I love this slide.  I think we can all agree that being proactive is better than being reactive.  CPS is fundamentally a proactive program, but what I like best is the fact that the students is a vital part of the equation.  True collaboration means that both sides share their concerns and mutually agree upon a resolution.  In the end, the student feels like they have a voice and an important one at that.  Every one of the people involved in the process felt that their relationships with their students were enhanced by CPS.

it's not magic

Our biggest struggle to date is finding time.  There is no doubt that it takes time to implement and in education time is perhaps our most scarce (and therefore valuable) commodity.  We struggled with finding the time and committing time in an ongoing manner.  Although we don’t always see the immediate payoffs.  Nobody was “fixed” from our work, but we all agree that our work benefited our students and will continue to benefit them down the road.   I equate it to the work we do with our struggling readers.  A few sessions of Learning Assistance does not get them back to grade level, but ongoing support eventually closes the gap – behaviour is not any different.

deeper learning

I think the closest we came to an epiphany was when one of the teachers involved (Nicky Skinner) made the connection to SMART Learning (in our school this is a connection all the teachers can make).  More than anything CPS promotes deeper learning and understanding for both the student and the adults.  For students we are mining to get to the root of the issue and then scaffolding in support to help them.  For the adults, CPS gives us a framework to help us dig and get to the root of the issue.

For me, the best part of the process is it involves reflective, supportive learning for all.  It’s fundamental in perpetuating community of learners.


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