Discipline: Helpful or Hurtful? with Brad Weinstein (Ep 152)

best special education resources discipline iep goals iep meetings iep resources iep table iep teams online special education resources professional development resources for special education teachers restorative practices special education solutions successful iep meetings teacher resources tips for iep meetings Oct 05, 2022

Discipline is always a concern in Special Education. Brad Weinstein from TeacherGoals joins us in this episode to talk about how discipline can be helpful rather than hurtful for our students. 

Meet Our Guest

Brad Weinstein founded TeacherGoals in 2014 to give educators inspiration and laughter to help them find joy in their jobs. He is the primary content creator for TeacherGoals and oversees the organization's strategic vision.

Brad is a co-author of the Washington Post bestseller Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice and has been featured in numerous high-profile publications and podcasts. He is also a co-founder of BehaviorFlip, a software company that focuses on school restorative practices. Brad is passionate about fostering equitable teaching and learning practices that help all students succeed.

Brad was the founding Director of Curriculum and Instruction for a network of high schools in Indiana dedicated to an innovative student-centered approach to equipping students with future-ready skills to enhance outcomes in college attainment and career success. Before that, he served as principal of a high school on the east side of Indianapolis. Brad is a former teacher of the year and taught for 11 years at the middle and elementary school levels. He holds a B.A. in Education from Purdue University, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana Wesleyan University, and completed a post-master’s Principal Licensure Program from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Addressing the Root Cause

Student behavior tends to come up as a barrier to accessing their education, but we're not really addressing these root causes. Brad focuses on restorative discipline, which differentiates the behavior from the person first, then encourages students to take accountability for the action, and make changes. This practice treats the "Why" of the issue, as well as establishes a system for real change in the future, so students are less likely to repeat the mistake in the future. 

Did you know that students with an IEP are twice as likely to be suspended for behavioral issues as their nondisabled peers? We have to start looking at discipline practices for students with IEPs differently and truly address the root cause of the problem, separate from their IEP needs. 

Teachers, we understand that you may be facing a higher number of students on your caseload this year than ever before, and more importantly, that you may feel ill-equipped for handling their needs. You are not alone in feeling this way! I spent the summer traveling across the country working with both Special Education and General Education teachers on IEP strategies and solutions. Their concerns are big! 

Parents, we need to help our teachers best understand our children and their actions so that they don't have to rely on outdated behavior management practices like behavior charts in the classroom and denied recess as a punishment. Let's look at some alternative ways to address behavior and move forward with positive change in our teaching practices for students with disabilities. 

Behavior Remedies

Denying recess and displaying behavior charts may seem like a great idea, but really what they do is publicly display a child's behavior, which can lead to humiliation and shame. Despite the good intentions behind this practice, it focuses on the negative behaviors only. These systems usually don't highlight positive behavior in the classroom. It also can create a pattern of anticipating expected behaviors from repeat offenders; if the teacher knows Johnny is usually up and out of his seat during independent work, therefore resulting in a change in his behavior chart status, the teacher might become conditioned to more often LOOK FOR Johnny to be out of his seat, rather than looking at the whole population equally. 

So what can we do instead? Brad suggests taking more proactive measures prior to the expected action occurring. If you know Johnny is going to want to get up out of his seat, let's allow him a spot in the classroom to work where he can move around while being productive in his work and not disturbing others. Another example might be a student's talkative behavior; build in more opportunities into your day for students to talk and share with their peers in a collaborative fashion. We can eliminate so many behavioral issues if we intentionally include proactive solutions into a child's day. The reality is that we're seeing the ramifications of our lack of planning for the needs of all our students. What we're missing is the teaching component - we have to teach the students that their behavior is affecting the class in XYZ ways and provide alternatives to manage said behavior in a more acceptable way. 

Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP)

Lots of people think of behavior intervention plans as a negative thing, but I see it as a great opportunity to get everyone on the same page about what needs to be provided and if/when the behavior happens, this is what happens next. Often, we only use BIPs reactively when things are out of control, but what if we use them proactively to help support the student from the beginning? 

Brad wants you to consider these kinds of documents as protection for your student. BIPs can help the teachers and staff working with your child understand your child's behaviors and responses to those behaviors prior to ever working with them. Having these plans in place will establish a readily available system for addressing and managing the behavior. "There's nothing to fear, it's only going to help your child, " says Brad. Having a BIP doesn't automatically label your student as a "bad kid", they just need different supports. It also doesn't make you a bad parent or a bad teacher, we just need a plan in place. 

Hacking School Discipline

Restorative discipline practices are not a perfect solution, nor are they a permanent fix. But it's about helping our students understand how they affect their learning environment as well as how they can do better. I've added a link to Brad's book, Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice, in the notes below and I encourage you to check it out! There's also a link for TeacherGoal's professional development opportunities for implementing restorative practices and applied neuroscience. 

 

It's possible for us to raise the expectations and see greater outcomes when we're providing the right foundation and providing the opportunities for students to perform at a higher level. 

 

Here's a glance at the episode... 

[3:05] "Student behavior tends to come up as a barrier to accessing their education, but we're not really addressing these root causes. Brad focuses on restorative discipline, which differentiates the behavior from the person first, then encourages students to take accountability for the action, and make changes."

[7:20] "Behavior charts may seem like a great idea, but really what they do is publicly display a child's behavior, which can lead to humiliation and shame."

[13:55] "'There's nothing to fear, it's only going to help your child,' says Brad. Having a BIP doesn't automatically label your student as a "bad kid", they just need different supports." 

Click here to listen! 

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Get Connected with Brad Weinstein and TeachersGoals: 

Teacher Goals - Professional Development

Book: Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice

@WeinsteinEdu on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin

 

 

 

 

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