A teacher contacted me about Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) being mandated in her school. The district has a new superintendent who used PBIS in his former district. The teacher has been using Discipline Without Stress for 10 years with great success and asked if there was any assistance I could give her because she does not want to use PBIS. She does not believe that young people should be rewarded for doing things that are expected of them. She asked me to please include the conversation I had with her in my next newsletter. Here it is.
I suggested she ask her students if they feel mature enough to make decisions themselves or whether they want the teacher to make all the decisions for them. I then asked her what she believes the response would be. She said, “My students are mature enough to make their own decisions.” I suggested that she then explain to her middle level students that PBIS was originally developed for special needs students and now has been mandated to be used for all students. The program is based upon the theory that it is necessary to reward students when they do something good in order to reinforce the desired behavior. (The program does not acknowledge the simple fact that if a student does something that is unacceptable and that if this type of behavior is not addressed, then that unacceptable behavior is also reinforced.)
I then suggested that, since her students indicated that they are mature enough to make their own decisions, they develop some procedure for them to give the rewards. For example, they can change the person in charge daily, weekly, or whatever the students decide. The students will soon discover that PBIS is unfair because if someone does what is expected and is NOT rewarded, then that student is punished by rewards.
Ask the students if they want to continue PBIS or if they are mature enough not to need rewards for things that they should be doing anyway. Give each student a choice. Use the following: “If you believe you are not mature enough and need to be given a reward, then let me know and we will continue rewarding you for acting responsibly.”
Notice throughout the conversation, you are positive by empowering your students. You have continually given them a choice and you have prompted them to reflect.
NOTE: PBIS is sweeping the nation, mandated by educational leaders who continue to rely on external approaches based upon reinforcement theory, an approach neuroscientists and enlightened leaders know are not nearly so effective as internal motivational approaches. Perhaps this is best exemplified in the leadership approach that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower used as Commander of NATO forces in WWII and as president: “The art of leadership is to get people to do what YOU WANTt them to do because THEY WANTD to do it.”
Learn more counterproductive approaches used by educators.