Monday, 30 July 2018

Kids can Learn

Key learning from Shared Solutions and Learning for All.

  1. Conflict can be avoided with effective communication and a positive community.
  2. Collective Teacher Efficacy is the number one influence related to student achievement. 
  3. Positive Relationships improves student learning.
What do they all have in common?

The deeply held belief that all students can learn despite their circumstances!

Just to confirm there is a lot of staff that might say superficially that they believe that all students can learn but to truly be of that opinion you have to understand that if the student is not learning it is because the adult has put up barriers.

What? Did I hear that correctly? The teacher has put up barriers causing the student not to learn. Let's dissect what it means for the education system to put up barriers. 

If all kids can learn then why do we end up sitting in meetings to discuss the students who are struggling to learn? If we are a strong believer of the statement, then the meeting will be focused on what the teacher needs to do to adjust the learning environment instead of what the child is doing to stop themselves from learning.

When the conversation shifts to the student's choices and inability to want to learn then the problem lies in the belief of the staff and not in the children. 

Think about a recent team meeting you have sat in. What statements do you hear during those meetings? Do they sound like the following?

He doesn't do his homework.
The parents are not helping her at home.
She doesn't practice reading at night like I suggested.
The parents have asked for homework and it never comes back completed.
He is never paying attention in class.
I'm constantly telling her to stop talking and to listen.
She never puts in effort to complete her work.

The message in these statements are the same - the student is not learning because they are choosing not to participate in their learning. If that is the argument being made then can we justify the belief that all students can learn?

The statements above absolve the teacher of their responsibility for student learning. The message is that the student is choosing not to learn and it's not my fault they are failing.

In contrast, a teacher who truly believes that all children can learn will use the meeting to ask what am I doing to stop the learning and what can I do next. I have done everything I can and I'm here to get more ideas. The focus shifts from the student choosing not to learn to the adult wanting to break down barriers in the learning environment so that the child can learn. 

How can administrators build a positive community whereby the core value "All children can learn" is put into practice?

Provide an engaging and safe space to take risks. A positive community of co-learners is built over time by fostering relationships where educators "feel safe to be vulnerable" and take risks as they learn.

Have high expectations for all learners that includes yourself. Staff need to know you believe in their potential.

Staff need to see themselves as co-learners and be willing to:

  • exchange learning and insights within and between roles
  • engage in focused conversations about learning
  • ask thoughtful questions and reflect on current practice
  • come to common understandings about instructional and collaborative practices


Sunday, 29 July 2018

Learning profiles and how they help with challenging behaviour

Teachers that have the most success with behavioural students are able to establish a relationship with the student. So how to you develop a relationship with a student in your class that is particularly challenging?
  • Find ways to interact with the student one-on-one. I learned really quick to never discipline or call a student out for their behaviour in front of their peers. The same applies to building a relationship with a student. It can be difficult in a group setting to make a connection with a student. Invite the student to play a game of cards, have lunch together, join a club you are running etc. 
  • Find ways to connect to the student through one of their interests. 
  • Be a good listener. Do not judge or point out the negative.
  • Show the student that you believe in them and that you like them despite the behaviours they demonstrate
  • Be consistent 
  • Show interest in their personal life, empathize, listen and offer support
  • Bottom line in order to develop a relationship the student must be able to trust you and they need to know that you have their best interest at heart.

Developing learning profiles for students in your class will be especially helpful in getting to know your students and what they need to succeed. Also, if the student does not know how to advocate for their needs or what they need to succeed then you can support the student in their learning journey.

" The more we understand our students, the more efficient we can ensure their learning successes." McCarthy. When we have in-depth understanding for how our students learn, there is a major impact on diagnosing student needs and planning effective supports. When a student can see that you are advocating for their needs, helping them to succeed and giving them an equitable opportunity to succeed, your relationship with that student will grow. When students are constantly in a learning environment that is above their zone of development the student is going to be frustrated and could present challenging behaviour. Thus in learning about your students' needs and differentiating the learning experiences in your classroom you are in fact killing two birds with one stone: building relationships and diminishing unwanted behaviour.

I came across an excellent site with activities to use with students to create learning profiles. 

The website was referenced in the article "Welcome to Learner Profiles" at

John McCarthy posted strategies for collecting learning profiles on his blog:

Poverty and Education

In education it is important that we help our staff understand culturally relevant pedagogy. 

Ask yourself are marginalized students over-represented in your school's special education program? I have noticed a disparity in our community for families living below the poverty line as well as equity of access to support children with special needs. It is difficult for families to access counselling, psycho-educational reports, occupational therapy and speech therapy without the means to seek private organizations.

At the school board level we have a poverty committee to address helping staff to understand the challenges that marginalized groups face daily. We are hosting a poverty challenge beginning with senior staff and then hopefully reaching all staff that work with children directly or indirectly. The poverty challenge is a chance for staff to walk in the shoes of someone living below the poverty line.

“We can’t sit here and think we know (about poverty) when we don’t,” said Martine Creasor, a caseworker with Lambton County’s social planning and program support department. “We have to educate ourselves about what it is they’re dealing with, and then we become part of the solution.”

The idea is that if there is more understanding about the causes and circumstances around poverty and the hoops people need to jump through just to get to the services meant to help them, there will be more empathy and support to develop strategies to help our students living in poverty.

In Guelph, Circles Guelph Wellington consists of three innovative programs:
- Bridges out of Poverty educates people from the middle or upper classes about what it means to live in poverty;- Getting Ahead is a program that helps people of low income learn about their own strengths and the resources available to them and;- Circles brings people from both programs together, creating relationships across economic boundaries and helping people move from poverty to sustainability.

Bridges offers training and is available to talk to school staff about the social and economic impact that poverty has on individuals and the community. Participants of the training are invited to look at poverty differently. This framework recognizes that individual choices can lead to poverty. Equally important, it recognizes there are other contributing circumstances that individuals have no control over. The Bridges model is built on the proven concepts that everyone in a community has a role to play in poverty reduction.

This would be an excellent resources to bring into the school for a staff meeting.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Anxiety in School

At the school mental health assist website you can find a tutorial series created to support educators in building understanding and knowledge of mental health and wellness in school.

Tutorial #2 focuses on Recognizing and Responding to Anxiety in the Classroom

There is a video, information sheet and PDF slideshow of the information presented.

This is a great resource to use with school staff if you are a school administrator or creating professional development for staff.

There are four sections in the tutorial:

  1. What is Anxiety
  2. Signs and Symptoms
  3. Classroom Strategies
  4. Specific Strategies
Staff could be divided into four groups, assigned a section and prepare a brief presentation of the key findings to staff. Follow-up with a group discussion on what is being done in your school to support student mental health specifically anxiety in each tier. Have each group draw a triangle and record what they feel has the biggest impact in each tier. As the school leader I would collect information, reflect and determine next steps.

Inclusive Change

What does the word Change mean to you? 

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"Change is easy to propose, hard to implement, and especially hard to sustain." 
Andy Hargreaves

Andy Hargreaves wrote an article on one of the most important areas of leadership theory and practice, educational change and its impact upon teachers. 

It is important to remember - Change and Emotion are inseparable! There is no human change without emotions and there is no emotion that does not embody a momentary process of change.

Change is inevitable in the career of a teacher and can be natural (ending of a school year) or imposed (new leadership).

Andy summarizes educational change as an external change that is unwanted, imposed, repetitious and sometimes repellant, compared with more professionally positive, self directed change (p.294).

Teachers' emotional response to external mandated change vs. self initiated change:

External Mandated Change:

  • Emotional response is negative
  • Associated with government reform or legislation
  • Forced upon teachers
  • Implemented poorly
  • Tight time scale
  • Insufficient resources
  • Teachers that respond positively to mandated change are more likely to be female, younger, do not teach mainstream subjects and in innovative schools.
Self Initiated Change:
  • Emotional response is positive
  • Fulfills teacher's purpose
  • High school teachers more likely to become involved in change that benefits their students outside of the classroom
  • Elementary teachers more likely to become involved when it involves other colleagues and changes on improving teaching and learning within the classroom. 

More often than not self initiated change comes form mandated change so how do leaders elicit a positive emotional response to a mandated change?

Andy concludes that it is less important whether the source of change is external or internal then the way it is implemented. Teachers want to see how it will benefit students, they want change to be flexible and to have proper support.

As a leader if you are trying to implement change in an elementary school:

  1. Ensure that you are allowing staff to work together.
  2. The focus relates to improving teaching and learning for students within the classroom
  3. Invest time and money into the initiative (release time, resources).
  4. Allow for professional flexibility so that teachers professional judgement, passion and purpose can be included in the change process. 
  5. Ensure that you have the commitment of your teachers before moving forward with any agenda.
One problem that I can see arise when trying to implement change is the rotation of leadership. What is the desirable length of time for a leader to be at a school so that staff do not feel that the leadership and change initiatives are a revolving door and they can essentially wait it out until the next leader comes in.

"Improvement is about doing something better; innovation is about doing something new." Andy Hargreaves

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Bringing Aboriginal Perspectives into the Classroom

Just reminded of this resource today...

Aboriginal Education Strategy

Practical teaching strategies for the elementary classroom

Download these professionally developed teaching strategies, designed to help Ontario teachers bring Aboriginal perspectives into the classroom.

Aboriginal Perspectives: The Guide to the Teacher's Toolkit (Online Version)
First Nations and Treaties Map of Ontario Information for Educators

Communication and Building Relationships

I was given the task to research one article on communication and/or building relationships within schools and communities. So I naturally went to twitter and searched communication and building relationships and came across a post referencing Frank Sonnenberg's article "Building Bridges: We're in This Together." He lists 46 ways to enhance communication, improve relationships and foster teamwork between people.
I took the 46 suggestions and divided them according to the Personal Leadership Resources in the OLF. That was a much harder task then I imagined as I struggled to place to fit the suggestion into one category. There is a lot of overlap and great conversation to be had when determining if the skill is social, psychological or cognitive resource. 
Here is what I ended up with:

I blew up each section to be able to read it!

Monday, 16 July 2018

TRUST is Essential to Building Relationships

Image result for empathy empathy put yourself in their shoes

Put yourself in the shoes of an at risk, vulnerable youth and any of the statements below could be true:
  • There is sometimes food to eat and other times the fridge is bare
  • You don't have running shoes that fit you for gym class
  • Your gaurdian could not afford to purchase the medication you rely on to reduce your anxiety
  • Your older brother was up all night partying with his friends and because of that you didn't get much sleep
  • You waited up until your dad got home from his night shift because you wanted to see him
  • Your parents were fighting before you left for school 
  • You have watched your parent or sibling doing drugs
What is one area that these students have in common MISTRUST. Rightly so, as an infant and child you need to trust that someone is going to feed you, love you, and provide your basic needs. When an infant/child has experienced trauma, loss or endured periods of time when their basic needs were not being met it can lead to mistrust of adults and peers. Mistrust is a valid response to feeling betrayed, abandoned or experiencing traumatic life events.

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What improves student learning - positive relationships. What is at the essence of relationships - Trust!

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Trust is the choice to be vulnerable and the ability to take risks in another person.

Creating a culture of trust in your school is essential for effective leadership and learning for ALL.

When a parent asks "Tell me about my child's learning?" or "What next?"  They need to able to trust you as the teacher or administrator and know that you have the their child's best interest at the forefront of the decisions being made.

In Davis' Ted Talk he speaks of three drivers of trust:

1. Ability - does the person do what they say they are going to do. Does the person have the ability to do what they say they are going to do?

2. Benevolence - Do they care about me? If they really care about me it is more likely to trust in the person.

3. Integrity - having a set of values and living those values that other people agree with. Saying you are going to do something and doing it!

When you are trying to build trust with students, parents of special needs students or staff in your school it is important that leaders build the perception of their ability benevolence and integrity.

How are some ways you can do that?

  • By making promises you know you can keep!
  • If you give your word that it will happen you better ensure it does!
  • Do your best to live up to your commitments and be on time for your meetings!
  • Show you care by asking questions, listening and celebrating!
  • Continue your professional learning especially in Special Education so you know what you are talking about!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Why Collaborative Professional Learning?

Why Collaborative Professional Learning? 

John Hattie would argue that Collective Teacher Efficacy is the number one influence related to student achievement. 

Learning For All states that, "Every student's learning experience can be improved when there is a shared commitment to high expectations for every student and when educators are engaged in a collaborative problem solving process that is focused on student learning."

So a better question to ask is Why Not?

What leader doesn't want educators working collaboratively in a culture of learning to ensure learning for ALL students and their own professional learning. 

As a leader myself I want that for my school and myself!


There are Three Big Ideas Guiding Professional Learning Communities:

  1. A commitment to ensure learning for all students
  2. A culture of collaboration 
  3. A focus on results
(Learning For All, 54)

As educators we have probably, at one time or another, participated in a professional learning community. This is not new in education. PLC's were defined by Dufour in 2004. Overtime different names have been used like Collaborative Inquiries but the essence remains the same. One thing is clear from the research on professional learning and that is a PLC is not a book club. 

So why do some people love them and some people hate them? Have you ever been a part of a PLC or CLI that has not gone well? or you just wanted it to be over? I have been in both situations.

I wanted to look at what makes PLC's successful and other's unsuccessful. I found this article in Education World, Why Don't Professional Learning Communities Work. From what I understand a PLC can fall apart before it even begins.

Here are two things you want to avoid as best as possible:

  1. Assigning groups to work together
  2. Mandating the topic of discussion

In the classroom, we assign groups to work together all the time to encourage collaboration, problem solving, team work, and conflict resolution. As the teacher, you know which groups you may need to mediate. You need to teach students how to cooperate and have respect for one another this is part of the purpose for the group work. As a leader wanting to implement PLC's ask yourself is the purpose to teach staff how to get along or to improve student learning because if it is the first one PLC's are not the vehicle to use.  For PLC's to be effective, educators must have a shared goal and work together to monitor, track and analyse data to meet their goal hence the "not a book club" comment. When we force individuals to work together we are assuming that everyone has the same initiative and is on board with the collective goal. Assuming everyone is going to be on board is a mistake. 

So, how can you mitigate the fact that not everyone is going to buy into PLC's and work collaboratively?

There has to be groundwork laid prior to a school jumping into professional learning communities. Although PLC's are going to strengthen the school community there needs to be conversation and excitement so that Administrators do not "assign" the task of forming PLC's.

Ask yourself:

  1. Is there a school wide focus on student learning and instructional improvement?
  2. Has there been open discussion involving the entire school community, that includes constructive sharing of questions, doubts, concerns and affirmations?
  3. Is there a belief that student learning needs to be a whole school approach?
  4. Is there common beliefs as to school vision and reform?

If these are happening, then you can move forward to build staff excitement around the concept of staff PLC's and allow the organization to come about organically. Let staff build the groups and determine what is important for them to discuss. 

Now I know that will be hard because administrators usually have a mandate like improving math instruction. But telling staff what they are going to talk about is likely not going to work out. I have been in mandated PLC's that fell flat when the topic and group members were assigned. 

Lastly, you need to build in time for teachers to meet and money to support the learning.

For more reading on PLC's check out:

Educational Leadership: (2004) "What Is a Professional Learning Community?"

Capacity Building Series: (2007) Professional Learning Communities: A Model for Ontario School.

Education World: Best Practices for Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities Beginning the Conversation.

Professional Learning Communities Fact Sheet


Conflict is a normal part of human relationships and can have a positive outcome if conflict stems from a need for change. Conflict occurs when someone decides that the current conditions are unacceptable and need to be changed.

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As an administrator preventing and resolving conflict is an everyday task. One important myth to dispel particularly with primary and junior students is the notion that "conflict" is bullying. There is a very clear distinction between the two that is often misunderstood by students.

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There are three common responses to conflict:
  1. Avoidance - taking a break to cool off can be a good response especially when emotions are heated however avoiding the conflict forever hoping it will go away is not productive.
  2. Confrontation - acting on the belief that one side is right. A win-lose situation.
  3. Acquiescence - giving into the other side.
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Special Education and Conflict

Conflict can occur in special education at the planning stage, throughout the implementation of a student's program or as a result of a poor relationship between parties ie. parent and teacher, teacher and student, teacher and administrator etc.

When conflict arises it is important that the parent speak to the Teacher or Special Education first before moving on to the Principal/Vice Principal.

At any level (Teacher, Principal, SO) successful conflict resolution begins with both parties have a clear understanding of the problem.

Using the key strategies of active listening (explore, restate, clarify and summarize) will help parties understand the issues at the heart of the conflict. I'm going to post this in my office in September!

Conflict Resolution can only occur when emotions can be put to the side in order to come to a solution in the best interest of the student. 

Principals of Conflict Resolution:

1. Clear understanding of issues or concerns
2. Student focused
3. Mutual Respect and Respect for Diversity
4. Accessibility
5. Balance of Power
6. Fairness
7. Transparency

Here is a list of strategies that can prevent conflict from occurring or help in the resolution stage:
  • Positive School Community
  • Effective Communication
  • Take notes at meetings and share with all parties ensure their is a section for follow-up with who is assigned to each task and a date for when the task will be completed
  • Book a follow-up meeting before ending a parent meeting
  • Believing that a solution can be found in the best interest of the student
  • Accepting that there is more than one way to solve a problem

Here is another quick tip sheet that could hang in my office: 

For more information on conflict and effective strategies check out Shared Solutions:

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Check it Out

I can not take credit for the finding the following websites and apps. A staff member I had the pleasure to work with this year attended the ETFO workshop for Technology and shared her learning so now I'm sharing it with you. 

Websites to check out: - Netflix but for books!  (There is a cost) - Great for number talks​ - Number Talks! - 360 videos, really good for social studies etc.  There are videos of refugee camps as well which could support discussions - Collaborative board maker.  Haven used it, but it has come up a lot (free) - tons of articles, great for inquiry.  Has a reading tool for students that cannot read independently - whole site dedicated to game based learning (Minecraft, Breakout etc) - make and play online quizzes.  Like Kahoot, but you can assign as homework, and there is a meme maker

Blippar- use the app to focus on an object, and it will pop up information about it.  I used it in the woods with my class to identify plants.  Some worked, some didnt.  Still interesting.

Hyperdocs- Student driven learning in Google Docs.  Tasks given in the doc, students follow the directions, and create various products.  Check out this website for more information.  There is even a ¨Teachers Give Teachers¨ page where you can search up subject specific hyperdocs.

Finally, here is the link to a Google doc that gives you every app/site that could be used to Hook, Explore, Explain, Apply, Share, Reflect, and Extend learning:​ 

I hope you can find some use for any of these.  Enjoy and happy summer!

Transition Planning - Grade to Grade

I gave this set of questions to teachers when they were meeting to discuss students
that will be in their classroom in September.

Transition Planning

Sample questions to ask this year’s teacher when discussing students’ strengths and needs:

Student Name: _____________________________________

  1. What is her relative strength? 
  2. What is his interest/hobby/passion?
  3. What do you see as her next step for Reading/Writing on the IEP?
  4. Why did you pick this math goal on the IEP? 
  5. What does he need to understand in math to close gaps in understanding?
  6. What was her number one struggle when it came to behaviour?
  7. What updates would you make to his behaviour plan? Safety Plan?
  8. If I were to take one fact away today what would be the most important thing to remember to set the student up for success in September? 
  9. How do you connect with the parents? 
  10. Is outside agencies involved with the family or the student?
  11. What area did you see the most growth in this year and why do you think that was? 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Ross Greene - Children do Well if they Can

I have read two of Dr Greene's books, "The Explosive Child" and "Lost at School" and have been a participant of one of Greene's workshops. What I value most about his work is his token slogan:

Image result for kids do well if they can

If you have the attitude that kids do well if they want to then the reason the kid is not doing well is because they don't want to. With this philosophy then in order to change behaviour you need the student to want to do well and you focus on making him want to do well. How do you do that? Reward good behaviour! 

Ross Greene asks, "What human being does not want to do well?" Doing well is always preferable to not doing well. If a kid could do well why wouldn't they? What if you take away the element of choosing to do well or not do well and look instead at what is in the child's way of doing well. You main role changes to figuring out the problem (what is getting in the way) instead of rewarding good behaviour and punishing the bad.

The Ross Greene model is based on the premise that challenging behaviour occurs when the expectations being placed on a kid exceed the kid’s capacity to respond adaptively, and that some kids are lacking the skills to handle certain demands and expectations.
If you believe a kid is challenging because of lagging skills and unsolved problems, then rewarding and punishing may not be the ideal approach.

We use Dr Greene's Assessment of Lagging Skills when discussing a vulnerable student. 

Fillable ALSUP


Today I was fortunate to see another version of the ALSUP created and used by an administrator in another school board and I loved the adaptations made.

I like how it has the added column to show an example and the frequency is expanded. I will be using this in my next school meeting for sure!

Ross Greene's Website

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Supporting Staff to Meet the Needs of ALL Learners

A child with challenging behaviour can make any teacher or parent feel completely inadequate.

An ongoing challenge for administrators is supporting staff to meet the needs of behaviour students in the classroom. 

It is important to know how teachers in your school feel about having a child with behaviour challenges?

"This child does not belong here!”
 “I do not have the training to deal with him.” 
“Nothing I do works!”
 “I can never complete an activity” 
“I have no time to give the other children the attention they deserve.”
 “I worry about what the other children are learning!” 
“I worry about the safety of the other children!” 
“He never shows remorse.”
 “I can’t predict what he will do next, his behaviour comes out of no where.” 
“He’ s only 4, I think we are expecting too much of him.”

The administrator needs to enhance staff capacity to provide the best behavioural supports for All children by:

Creating an atmosphere of trust 
• Understanding the teacher’s and family’s reality 
• Role modeling ways of dealing effectively with the child and his/her family 
• Providing physical, emotional and informational support 
• Creating a team that works together 
• Believing in the educators’ and family’s ability to succeed

Exceptionality: Behaviour

The ministry defines a behaviour exceptionality as a learning disorder characterized by specific behaviour problems that adversely affect educational performance. 

Students can present external and internal behaviours such as the ones listed below:


  • Defiance
  • Aggressive Behaviours
  • Stealing
  • Challenging authority
  • low self-esteem that may masquerade as “toughness”
  • initiating fights or displaying physical violence/cruelty
  • unwillingness to compromise
  • persistent testing of limits (by ignoring, arguing, not accepting blame) 
  • persistent hostile mood


  • Anxiety/Mood
  • Withdrawn

The Teacher Gateway to Special Education (OTF) has a vast amount of resources that can be used to support students with special education needs.This site serves as a collection of resources for teachers to easily access and implement with their students.

It is definitely a website administrators need to remember to share with staff. Especially before IEP are due as there are instructional, assessment and environmental accommodations listed under each exceptionality that can be used as a reference for teachers. 

All students can learn with the use of specific strategies that meet each student’s unique learning needs. Often it comes down to programming to meet student needs that can result in a positive change in a student's behaviour. 

Successful interventions require:
  • strong staff-student relationships
  • an understanding of the underlying factors influencing behaviour
  • an understanding of the immediate triggers for its occurrence.

Before the team can begin to plan for student success information needs to be gathered. An individual student profile as referenced in "Learning For All" would provide the necessary information to plan with the student at the forefront. A student profile can point the way to greater precision and personalization in instruction and assessment. 

The following framework is something I have used when discussing vulnerable students. For the student being discussed the questions were answered in each category.

Attitudes Beliefs and Well Being

  1. How does the student feel when in the classroom? Do they feel welcome? Comfortable? Safe?
  2. Does the student have positive relationships in the class (kids/staff)?
  3. What things does the student get excited about? What motivates them?
  4. What have you tried to help increase student well being?

Universal Design

  1. What tools in the classroom does this student use when dysregulated?
  2. Tell me how the classroom design, supports and teaching strategies reflect the IEP?
  3. How does the student integrate feedback into their work?

Assessment to inform Learning

  1. Can the student tell you what they are learning and why they are learning it when you are conferencing with them?
  2. What does this student do when they are confused? What strategies have you developed together?
  3. How are they progressing in their goals? How will you know when they have been met?

Students and Class Profiles

  1. What trends have you noticed about when and where the behaviour/challenges are happening? Why is it happening?
  2. Do we have ABC data to help us understand why this is happening?
  3. What should we try next based on this information?

"When Students Act Out: Six practices for supporting students with challenging behaviors"