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Use RTI and PLC to support students' behavioral skills development

Are You Committed to Nurturing Students’ Behavioral Skills?

Categories: PLC, RTI

If your staff accepts that behavioral skills are as important as academic skills…

If your staff are truly committed to all students learning at high levels (and you recognize that needs in behavioral skills are preventing some students from meeting expectations) …

If your staff recognize that they’re the answer they’ve been waiting for when it comes to the teaching and learning of behavioral skills …

If you’ve “done” behavioral RTI before and want to do it better or revitalize your system of supports, then follow these six steps. Read more

Behavior and academics are inextricably linked.

Extreme Makeover: Behavioral Skills Edition

Categories: RTI, School Improvement

When we decided to become teachers, for the most part, we understood our quest. We knew the journey to creating meaningful learning opportunities for students would involve the use of evidence-based instructional strategies, purposeful assessments, and a viable curriculum. While we knew that classroom management was a necessary prerequisite for teaching and learning, we didn’t fully appreciate the critical importance of Pro-Social and Pro-Functional behavioral skills and our critical role in guaranteeing their development. We implemented various social-skills programs – some focused on positive reinforcement, some on self-regulation, some good, some inconsequential. But when we completely committed to ALL students learning at high levels, whatever it takes, we recognized that deficits in behavioral skills were negatively impacting students’ abilities to learn academic skills, and that mastery of behavioral skills were as significant to success in school and in life as mastery of academic skills. Let’s further explore this concept by talking about Billy.

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On Teaching Techniques and Methods (Part Two)


On Teaching Techniques and Methods: Reflections of an Experienced Teacher (Part Two)

By Ralph Rhodes, retired social studies teacher, Council Rock High School, Pennsylvania

Edited by Elliott Seif, author of Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World

Editor’s note: Many years ago, I worked with Ralph Rhodes who, upon his retirement from education, wrote this paper with the intention of passing on some of his teaching insights to others. His words of wisdom are divided into two separate blogs—the first one on teaching techniques and methods and this blog, part two, on “who you are” as an educator. 

I have edited his work to make it more general and fit with today’s times, but there is a lot of wisdom about teaching at any level presented here. Enjoy!


My fellow educators:

Over the last 22 years, I have consistently evaluated my own teaching. For 10 of those years, I have had my students do the same. I have divided my reflections into two parts: the first 10 suggestions, posted in an earlier blog on teaching techniques and strategies, and these 10 suggestions on “being” or the importance of who a teacher is in the classroom.

Several of these tips can also be helpful to educational leaders who may want to share and discuss these ideas with teachers. Since we are all unique and many effective teaching styles can be very different from one another, some of the items listed here may or may not be appropriate for everyone. However, I hope these 10 ideas on “being” are ultimately helpful to many of those in the classroom as well as those working with teachers.


  1. Be inspired. If you ever wish to inspire others, you must be inspired yourself. Seek and cultivate your own sources of inspiration. Find others who have the same passions as you do and encourage each other.

    A good teacher has a thirst for learning as well as teaching. Be a thief of other ideas, techniques, and attitudes that inspire you as a teacher. Take courses that renew your creativity. Become friendly with those who set high ideals and stoke your personal and professional passions.

    It also helps to have childlike curiosity and excitement. Tom Hanks was told in the movie Joe Versus the Volcano that only a few people on Earth are awake; the rest are going through life asleep, unaware, unappreciative, and unexcited. Make sure you and your classes are among those that are awake. You and your students will benefit from such inspiration and passion.

  2. Make sure you have the energy you need for the magic moments when you are with your students. Good teaching requires high levels of energy and enthusiasm. Each day, you must be fresh and up and ready to wage war against ignorance. Though your role should be closer to a “guide on the side” than a “sage on the stage,” steering your students toward inquiry, understanding, and explanation is the greatest show on Earth. Do whatever it takes to stay fresh and enthusiastic.

  3. Be supportive and empowering, not negative and controlling. Your job is to get your students to feel good about what they do and to empower them to learn, apply what they learn, and think on their own. Someone once said that humility is having the ability and capacity to see all people as equals, so approach your students with this humility. Create a dialogue. Let them talk and always try to find value and interest in what they say. Respect their opinion, and they will respect yours and will be empowered to think more on their own.

  4.  Set high standards for yourself and your students, and always be a truth seeker. Good teaching is hard work and requires a lot of effort and thoughtfulness inside and outside of the classroom. Always challenge your class with the appropriate level of work, but monitor this carefully for each student. Use the same grading standards for all, but in your feedback, be encouraging to those less skilled and challenge those with more confidence and mastery. Also, contact home with positive thoughts when a student does something outstanding or when his or her confidence needs a boost.

    You should always strive for the truth. Present yourself as someone who facilitates truth seeking. This may require admitting you are wrong or that you do not know but will find out—or you’ll help your students find out. To seek the truth is a habit and a way of being that you can model for your students.

  5. Be very clear on what you expect in every assignment. Important, complex, and involved assignments should be modeled as concretely as possible. Share previously completed exemplary projects and assignments with your students. Term papers and other involved projects should be completed in steps so students get feedback as they progress. When possible, give students a chance to revise their work so they (and you) can be proud of what they achieved.

  6.  Never lose the opportunity to be dramatic. If you have an inclination or flair for dramatic teaching techniques, such as those exhibited by Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society, use them: stand on your desk, give a press conference as Teddy Roosevelt, have your class do the wave, draw cartoons on the board. Lose your inhibitions. It may be best to limit these at the beginning of the year, but once the ice is broken, go for it. As Miss Frizzle of The Magic School Bus says, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, get messy, ask questions, get answers.”

  7. Be clear on goals for the year, unit, and day. It’s good to be spontaneous but be clear what it is you want your students to learn, understand, or demonstrate. I always had a daily agenda with my lesson goals on the board, and at the end of the period, I used it for closure.

  8. Be a moral agent. Many educators feel uncomfortable imparting values and morals in teaching, but I feel strongly that teachers must be moral agents. They must be strong moral examples and expect the same behaviors from their students. The principles of human dignity, justice, and equality are standards to exemplify and reinforce. Teachers should not belittle anyone, and students shouldn’t either. A racist, a thief, a liar, or a bully in the classroom should not be tolerated but should be handled without sacrificing that person’s dignity.

  9.  Be centered and focus on the positive aspects of teaching students. For those of us who are intensely self-critical, teaching can be a daily roller coaster of emotional bliss and great despair—especially when things go wrong. Although a lesson’s failure is often an opportunity to learn, one must realize that teaching success or failure can be dictated by factors beyond a teacher’s control, such as the time of day, the mood and attitude of students, or students’ familial or social troubles. Teachers must be centered and confident and know that all they can do is their best—and then let the chips fall where they may.

    It’s important to keep some inner peace and a sense of humor as a teacher and not have your mood be dependent on whether you were successful or not that day. I used to have a sign in my room that said, “Every day in here is a battle against ignorance. Who won today?” It helped me get through those occasional bad days when ignorance won more often than I would have liked.

    Effective teaching depends on consistent monitoring of student learning, but as a teacher, you should always do this with kindness and forgiveness. Do whatever you can to be centered and not overreact to the outcome of one or two classes, the challenges of student learning, or the behavior of one or two students. Things are often not as bad as you think—and even if they are bad, you should remember that you can lose some battles and still win the war. In short, be gracious and kind to yourself as well as your students.

    Keep these lessons in mind:

    1. Often your worst class will end up being one of your best classes by the end of the year. (Unfortunately, the reverse is also true.)
    2. A few students can ruin a class if you let them. In a class where one or more students turn things sour, don’t let it ruin your feelings for the entire class. When a class has you down, focus and reinforce what is good about that class. Take time to get to know the quiet and more productive students and offer your best to them. You still need to address the challenging students as best you can, but don’t let that ruin your effort to teach the others.

      In the worst case scenarios, I just accepted the fact that I could not change a student or a group of students. I just went with them and never threw in the towel. Like in a marriage, you need to accept the unpleasant things in your relationship and focus on and nurture the good things.
  10.  Be persistent in your own desire to grow and learn. Teaching is both a science and an art form that can always be improved. The day teachers feel they know it all is the day they’ll lose the excitement and curiosity of teaching. Cultivate the habit of always looking for new resources, new methods, new ideas, and better ways of being and doing. Keep a professional list of things you want to remember to do and change, and keep working on these items a little at a time. 

These 10 items are just some humble suggestions on “being” as a classroom teacher. I hope some of them are helpful to you. Teaching is a wonderful and rewarding profession. Be patient and kind to yourself, and remember that good teaching takes lots of time and effort.

Make sure you and your classes are among those awake.

Ten Reasons Why Strong Arts Education Programs Are Critical for Living in Today’s and Tomorrow’s World


Elliott Seif is the author of Teaching for Lifelong Learning: How to Prepare Students for a Changing World.

In two previous blogs, I identified many reasons for building strong science and social studies programs for students, K–12. In this blog, I identify ten key reasons why a comprehensive K–12 arts program should also be a critical component of a rich education that prepares students for living in today’s and tomorrow’s world.

Unfortunately, in too many schools and districts, the arts are considered less important than other subjects and are given short shrift as part of a student’s K–12 educational experience. In my estimation, rich, comprehensive arts programs are a critical component of a strong education because they have a powerful impact on attitudes towards school and learning and help develop important understandings, skills and habits of mind. Arts education programs also develop student interests and talents, prepare students for living a full life and, for some, lead to career choices in music and dance, visual arts, and the theater, among others.

Here are my ten powerful reasons for developing strong, rich, and comprehensive school arts programs.

  1. Most children like arts education and actively engage in school through the arts.

    Let’s face it—for the most part, children like arts education! They are engaged, interested and involved. Arts education is usually “hands on,” has immediate rewards, focuses on positive achievements and results, develops concrete products, and fosters collaboration and successful achievement. There are many opportunities for students to “show off” and demonstrate their skills through authentic performance. For some students, arts education is the main reason why they come to school and stay in school.

  2. Children learn growth habits, positive behaviors and attitudes through the arts.
    The arts enable children to grow in confidence, learn ways to improve learning, and think positively about themselves and learning. Learning a musical instrument, creating a painting, learning to dance, or singing in a chorus teaches that taking small steps, using feedback to improve, practicing to get better at something, and being persistent and patient even in the face of adversity are important for growth and improvement. In other words, the arts teach growth habits, behaviors, and attitudes that can be applied to any field of endeavor.
  3. The arts help students develop critical intellectual skills.
    The arts foster the learning of critical skills that carry over to learning other subjects and in life. For example, through the arts, children learn to observe (“What do you see in a painting?”); interpret (“How should we play this music?”); see different perspectives (“What is the artist’s perspective? What is your perspective?”); analyze (“What if we take apart this play and study each part separately?”); and synthesize (“How do all the parts of the dance fit together to create a whole?”).
  4. The arts enhance creativity and creative thinking.
    Imagine an art class in which students create an original canvas filled with color and creative use of space; a music class where they develop their own rhythms and music interpretations; a theater class where they create and produce their own interpretation of plays and/or their own original plays. In other words, the arts are a wonderful arena for fostering creative thinking, inventiveness, and originality—important skills to have in a rapidly changing world.
  5. The arts teach students methods for learning language and literacy skills.
    As students learn to read musical notes, play an instrument, learn dance steps, create a painting, act in a drama, or interpret a script, they are also building reading skills, learning how to develop new concepts, building new vocabulary, and learning a new language.
  6. The arts help students learn mathematics.
    The arts require measurement, number manipulation, and proportional thinking—all of which foster mathematical thinking. Students also learn about patterns (e.g., musical rhythms and dance patterns); spatial and geometric relationships (e.g., visual art patterns); and three-dimensional measurement skills (e.g., making models of clay).
  7. The arts broaden and enrich learning in other subjects.
    Artworks provide a visual context for learning about, interpreting, and analyzing historical periods. Music, painting, theater, and dance help literature come alive. Graphic designs and drawings, such as those made by inventors and engineers, complement learning about scientific and technological principles and innovations.
  8. Aesthetic learning is important in its own right.
    The arts teach about beauty, proportion, and grace. The power of the arts is in their wondrous ability to give us joy, help us understand tragedy, promote empathy, and make the written word come alive. They help students examine conflict, power, emotion, and life itself. For many, the arts become part of the richness of living over the course of a lifetime.
  9. Artistic talents and interests are nurtured and developed.
    Through the arts, many children discover their talents and interests and find a way to do something productive with their life. They develop career interests, talents, and hobbies related to acting, theater production, painting, graphic design, music, dance, sculpture, or creative writing that they will enjoy and use throughout their lives.
  10. The arts teach teamwork and collaboration. Children learn tolerance and understanding of others.
    Through the arts, children learn how to work together to achieve great things. For example, they learn how teamwork contributes to a great theater or musical performance, a mural, or a dance. By teaching students how to work and live together, the arts contribute to making schools and the entire community safer and more peaceful.


In sum, extensive and excellent art education programs foster important and enjoyable learning experiences, positive attitudes toward school and learning, significant learning across many subject areas, creative thinking, teamwork, the understanding of new career options, talent development, and many other learning and life experiences. Arts programs can make a big difference in the life of every child, and every student should have the opportunity to participate in a strong, multidimensional arts program throughout their educational experience. The arts can have a powerful impact on children and learning, and they can make a significant difference in children’s lives. What it takes is commitment, support, understanding, and hard work to make sure the arts are a significant and meaningful part of every school program in the country.