I just got through reading “Lost at School”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School] the other night. I had previously attended a seminar conducted by and read the “Explosive Child” by Dr. Greene while I was working at Good-Will Hinckley.
At that time I was over-exposed to the behaviorism and progressive discipline model that Good-Will Hinckley (GWH) employed and didn’t really give his Collaborative Problem Solving methods much of a thought after I finished the book. In fact I left Dr. Greene’s training early with another staff member and we both said that this was a bunch of “hooey” on the ride back.
So I was somewhat skeptical of the program when I started reading “Lost at School”, that I have to read as part of a Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) workshop I am taking through Central Maine Inclusive Schools. This time something clicked when I started reading the introduction and this passage in particular:

“Helping kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges is not a mechanical exercise. Kids aren’t robots, adults aren’t robots, and helping them work together isn’t robotic. The work is hard, messy, uncomfortable, and requires teamwork, patience, and tenacity, especially as the work also involves questioning conventional wisdom and practices.”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School]

I have been having a really difficult time with one particular student and it has caused me a lot of worry because I truly want all of my students to be as successful as they can be and I wasn’t getting through, so I decided that maybe I could glean something from the book. As I read it this really caught my attention

“Three massive shifts are required: (1) a dramatic improvement in understanding the factors that set the stage for challenging behavior in kids; (2) creating mechanisms for helping these kids that are predominantly proactive instead of reactive; and (3) creating processes so people can work on problems collaboratively.”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School]

I enjoyed the stories that accompanied the book to provide examples of the students and how CPS could work, I was able to put a name and a face to each one of the students he described from my own experiences. I had been taught that these kids were all the below things:

“What we’ve been thinking about challenging kids—that they’re manipulative, attention-seeking, coercive, unmotivated, limit-testing, and that these traits have been caused by passive, permissive, inconsistent, noncontingent parenting—is way off base most of the time. As a result, the interventions that flow from these ways of thinking have been way off base as well.”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School]

How many times I’ve heard before about these kids and their parents, and it is much easier to blame the parents or the kids rather than taking a look in the mirror to see what we might be or not be doing that is also negatively affecting some of our students.
Consequences (reinforcing, negative or natural/logical) are the main focus of everything I was taught and here Dr. Greene was saying:

“Consequences are wonderful when they work. They are less wonderful when they don’t work. And they often don’t work for the kids to whom they are most frequently applied.1”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School]

and I had to agree whole-heartedly with that premise. Then he went on to say:

“But—and this is important—the vast majority of challenging kids already know how we want them to behave.”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School]

This was one of those “aha” moments, because I really never had thought of a child’s behavior in quite those terms, most of the challenging kids I knew, did know what was expected, but just couldn’t do it and I had always struggled with them having that knowledge and generally just figured that the student was making a conscious decision to act up or was just jerking us around.

“The thinking skills involved aren’t in the traditional academic domains—reading, writing, and arithmetic—but rather in domains such as regulating one’s emotions, considering the outcomes of one’s actions before one acts, understanding how one’s behavior is affecting other people, having the words to let people know something’s bothering you, and responding to changes in plan in a flexible manner.”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School]

By now he really has my attention and I had to re-read the first and second chapters a couple of times before I could digest the information – there was just so much that was different from everything I had been taught and been fairly successful with. It was causing me to really re-think my views about the effectiveness of behaviorism for some students…that it simply didn’t work for them and finally I had some idea of why not. Now I was getting a better understanding of why so many students didn’t fit at Good-Will Hinckley and had to leave the program maybe due to more the program limitations and the student’s issues.
Then when I read the header for Chapter 2 “Kids Do Well If They Can”, [Ross W. Greene, Ph.D., Lost at School], I was hooked line and sinker. It just made so much sense to me.
I don’t know if CPS is the solution to all the problems that behaviorally challenged students have, but it certainly is a step in the correct direction. If nothing else it will help build a relationship between you and the students. It seems to me to be a more logical way of getting the student to buy into what needs to be done instead of being told what needs to be done.
I checked with my Principal and she is all for me attempting to use it in my classroom, she even offered me a copy of the book from her bookshelf. So I have support in the building for what I am doing from the leadership side, now I have to see if it will work. I have been trying some CPS slowly in class using the approaches that Dr. Greene outlines in his book.
I think that this post is long enough as it is, so if you want to look at something that is different from the typical answers you receive to resolve negative behaviors take a look at his book “Lost at School”, it might give you some ideas. I know that I am giving it a try and this is a pretty big about face for someone as steeped in the “consequence” line of thought as I was for over 10 years.
I heartily recommend reading Lost at School, it might just change how you view some of your behaviorally challenged students, it did me. Here is the link for his website if you don’t want to run out and buy the book:
In answer to my question in the header, I don’t know yet, but I hope so!!!
Image from Barnes and Noble Website