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Getting Started with Positive Behavior Support in Schools for Teachers

Teachers, here are the steps to explore whether school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) is a good match for your school, and if so, how to move forward:

1. Find Out

2. Build Support

  • Talk with other teachers about school-wide PBIS and its benefits. Assess whether they would be interested as well.
  • Talk with your school’s principal about it and assess her or his interest.
  • Talk with students, families, and community members. Would they be interested in partnering in an initiative?
  • Inquire about your current school-wide discipline data. Do the data show a need for a coordinated effort?
  • Ask for professional development in school-wide PBIS.
  • In general, having support of the principal and at least 80% of staff is necessary before starting implementation.
  • Assess how PBIS is aligned with existing district or state priorities.

3. Start Small but Think About the Big Picture

  • Although working at a whole school level is recommended, you and your fellow teachers can try it out in a specific non-classroom setting where there is shared interest in improving behavior.
  • If you’re on your own for the time being, there are steps you can take in your classroom for your students while you continue to build support from all staff:
    • Define and teach expectations. Pick 3 to 5 positively stated expectations that will work for your students (e.g., Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible). Teach the words, show examples, and provide practice with feedback. Post them and refer to them regularly with students.
    • Define and teach routines. Identify the common routines in your area. Teach the steps so that following them is clear.
    • Change the environment. What is it about the area that might be interfering with positive behavior? Make changes to make it easier for students to do the right thing. Examples include changing the classroom layout, moving materials, or using visuals (e.g., picture schedules, posted steps for common classroom routines).
    • Find resources in the APBS Members section on classroom management planning tools and assessments, as well as the National TA Center’s documents on supporting behavior in the classroom.
  • For students with more significant needs than a good class-wide system can support, consider function-based support to teach students more prosocial ways to get their needs met. This document includes an overview of the function-based support process. The National TA Center also has materials for a training module on function-based support. In addition, look for resources in the members section of http://www.APBS.org to support individual students, such as http://www.apbs.org/files/PBSwhole.pdf.

4. Take Next Steps

  • Continue to assess progress and next steps using the fidelity tools described in Step 1.
  • Tell other teachers. Share your journey with them. If you’re doing something worthwhile, they will want to know.
  • Connect with teachers on other school teams/committees and professional organizations. You’re going to need support to keep PBIS alive.
  • Find resources, such as "How to Get Positive Behavior Support in Your School” to guide you.