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Category: Instructional Practices

Changing the Language to Build a Culture to Support Transformational Leadership

Originally Published:

As defined in Simply Psychology(opens in new tab), “Transformational leadership inspires positive changes in those led and invests in the success of every member involved in the process.” Nowhere is this more critical than in the post-pandemic educational environment. With a focus on student-centered learning and personalized professional growth, educational leaders must reevaluate their leadership systems to inspire, support, and collaborate to transform learning and innovation. 

Quintin Shepherd, Superintendent at Victoria ISD in Texas, and Sarah Williamson’s recently released book, (opens in new tab)The Secret to Transformational Leadership(opens in new tab), recognizes the ‘lone wolf’ leader as a thing of the past. Instead, leadership is an influence relationship between leaders and followers who intend fundamental changes that reflect their mutual purpose. Therefore, educational leaders need to have a growth mindset and follow another path of leadership skills that results in high achievement and academic success in schools.  

Competency vs. Compassionate Language

Competencies are a person’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents that allow them to complete the responsibilities of a specific job successfully. However,  simply communicating competency may not be enough to inspire success.

“Competency-based language of leadership is like a suit that doesn’t quite fit right anymore,” writes Shepherd. “It works and gets the job done, but you know it is not as good as it could be. Leaders want to tackle the critical and challenging topics facing them every day, but competent language gets in the way of having the conversations that matter.” 

According to Shepherd and Williamson, following another path of skills requires leaders to move away from competency language to the more collaborative language of compassion. This mindset shift will result in better performance and visibility into what the school community expects of its leaders. Choosing to use compassionate language prompts leaders to think differently about how they evaluate their efforts. Compassionate leadership’s transparent and shared purpose or vision includes positively valuing differences, frequent face-to-face contact, continuous commitment to equality and inclusion, clear roles, and a strong team. It embraces the digital world we live in, the generational difference in the school community, and the need to accomplish organizational goals and bring people together around ideas. 


This new language inspires and empowers at the same time. It can unite the school community regarding complex issues that impact students and staff. “It focuses equally on great questions over satisfactory answers, embraces the unknown, and wrestles it into manageable,” writes Shepherd.   

Building Relationships 

To master the new language of leadership, leaders must pivot their thinking from focusing on individuals to concentrating on interactions between individuals. This pivot requires constructive de-polarization that brings people together around purposes and relationships and does not divide based on ideas or ideology. 

The relationships between leaders and active followers should be based on influence and, therefore, multi-directional with more than one follower and typically more than one leader. Leaders and followers purposely desire specific changes, and these changes must be substantive and transforming. Through non-coercive influence relationships, compassionate leaders and the school community can develop objectives that reflect their ideals and mutual intentions. 

Communication Framework 

Shepherd and Williamson identify a four-part communication framework of why, who, how, and what embedded in the shift to compassionate language and transformational leadership.  

Communicating the “why” is mission-critical for the work’s success, as the words of a leader will fall flat without meaning, and the innovation’s success will be in jeopardy. 

Communicating the “who” of the work builds unconditional faith and an ability to connect with the emotions of others. Investing in training resources and processes is non-negotiable, so leaders must have the compassion to treat others as professionals in their work. Shepherd says that if leaders intend to embrace compassionate leadership to the fullest, they must immerse themselves fully in the work and dreams of others.  

Communicating the “how” means enthusiastically embracing innovative ideas. By doing so, districts reduce the cost of failure while increasing the value of innovation, resulting in a powerful paradigm shift in the school culture.  

Communicating the “what” is key as improvement cannot exist in a vacuum. Compassionate transformational leaders share the “what” of the work with deep compassion. 


Shepherd highlights that leaders need to understand their thought processes and disrupt any competency-based language that falls into the “good” or “bad” continuum. His advice to leaders traveling down the path of transformational leadership is to embrace compassionate language by connecting more deeply with their current climate and community. Immersing in the crowd-sourcing of decisions and optimizing digital strategies will create shared spaces for everyone to have their voices heard.  


Is it fake? How to teach with news and media sources

Originally Published: 

Between the recent presidential election, COVID-19, and racial unrest, our students are barraged with 24/7 access to news and media that can be real, fake, or altered. According to the presenters in a recent edWebinar sponsored by ABC-CLIO, the relationship between the terms “news” and “media” are fundamental distinctions that we need to make when working with students in the new era of journalism.

Jacquelyn Whiting, the innovation and technology specialist for Cooperative Educational Services, and Peter Adams, the senior vice president of education for the News Literacy Project, assert that while there are many credentialed journalists, there is also “a world of citizen journalists with mini-computers in their pockets.”

Because both news and media types of journalists are content creators, the relationship between professional and citizen is significant for us to consider with our students.

 Students must understand when to recognize trustworthy information and credible, high-quality journalism.

Whiting and Adams favor beginning the process of teaching students to identify reliable journalism by ensuring they understand and acknowledge high-quality journalism standards: sourcing, documents, and evidence, minimize bias, fairness, transparency and accountability, news judgment, verification, and context.

While many journalists, both professional and amateur, keep high journalism standards, many content creators are posting, sharing, and writing disinformation. These creators count on three types of bias from their readers: emotional reactions, implicit bias, and propaganda tactics. When the reader has an emotional response to a piece of media, emotional arousal suppresses critical thought. When beliefs and attitudes are triggered, implicit bias can inspire a different reaction and connection to a piece of media.

Propaganda tactics rely on emotional responses, getting on the “bandwagon,” and fear.

It is fundamental to teach students the standards of high-quality journalism to evaluate and grapple with the critical question of what counts as the center and who decides.

When introducing a new lesson with the framework for teaching bias, it is imperative to break it down to the five types of news media biases: partisan, demographic, corporate, neutrality, and “big story.” The presenters recommend creating lessons that help students push past all of the biases by identifying the five core forms biases can take: the absence of fairness and balance, framing, tone, story selection, and sourcing.

While social media can play a big part in where our students get their information, it is paramount for educators to design news and media lessons on straight news. The mindset for educators in designing quality lessons about news and media should be that the perception of bias is the beginning and not the end of student inquiry. If a student thinks something is biased, ask them in what ways is it biased, what type of bias are they seeing and how is it expressed, and how could it have been fairer or more accurate?

Whiting and Adams also cautioned educators to be wary of students’ cynicism and their assumptions that everything is out to manipulate them in some way. Help students approach identifying biases in a fair-minded sort of skeptical way and avoid the pitfalls of cynicism.

How to Improve Teacher Training for More Successful Remote Learning

Originally Posted: EdTech Magazine

When K–12 leaders implement expanded remote learning — whether at the start of the school year or as needed throughout the semester — teacher training will be crucial. The quick-fix tech training many schools offered in the spring will not provide the quality online teaching students need.

The scramble to implement remote learning in March left many educators with no option but to learn, apply and teach with unfamiliar virtual tools. Now, educators must be able to navigate remote learning and be skilled in technology tools. It also became evident that tech training would only get educators so far; to succeed at engaging, enhancing, and extending student learning, teachers also need high-quality professional development that includes educational technology tools, as defined in the Triple E Framework.

Concerns about academic backsliding — the “COVID-19 slide” — adds to the urgency. School closings spurred by the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated educational disparities and may contribute to low student performance and skills mastery in the upcoming school year.

Continuing the ineffective model of remote learning implemented in the spring will make those problems worse. Educators had minimal experience with expanded, full-time online instruction, were given insufficient face-to-face training, and offered too few resources. They will continue to replicate instructional approaches they used in their brick-and-mortar classrooms without high-quality training before the pandemic. Teachers have the most significant impact on student learning, but individual educators cannot take full ownership of technology-enhanced education without ongoing support and training.

Why Training Is Key to Improving Remote Learning Experiences

Educational technology leaders and other K–12 administrators are now under pressure to overcome the challenges of providing personalized professional development in a virtual environment and building educators’ capacity to develop e-learning skills. The professional development model that is top-down, canned, and heavy on presentation slides was proved ineffective and unsustainable even before school closures.

Districts can no longer afford to provide less-than-seamless training and learning opportunities for their educators, who are demanding effective, sustainable, high-quality, easily transferable, and relevant learning opportunities. Best practices for teaching should drive technology used in the classroom by focusing on skills that can quickly transfer to an online or remote environment. District- and school-level back-to-school taskforces should include classroom teachers to identify technology use expectations, revise curriculum development that incorporates technology and identify best practices when using technology as an instructional tool.

Best practices for teaching should drive technology used in the classroom by focusing on skills that can quickly transfer to an online or remote environment.”

District and school leaders should ensure that processes are in place during professional development opportunities to support teachers’ diverse learning styles. By providing various learning options, districts can guarantee their teachers will have support and access to training, ownership of their learning, and the ability to assess their technical skill levels. It is also critical to scaffold learning, and one of the most effective tools for this is the Massachusetts Technology Self-Assessment Tool. Using this, educators can determine their level of tech proficiency and identify personal PD needs. The data collected helps schools and districts assess PD programs and planning activities that will help all teachers become proficient in technology. Using the ISTE Standards for Educators, personalized, structured, and beneficial professional development opportunities can ensure that educators excel as learners, leaders, citizens, collaborators, designers, facilitators, and analysts.

Boost Learning in Physical and Virtual Classrooms with Consistency

Good teaching is good teaching, and school communities need to learn, share and collaborate on the outstanding education that is already happening.

Educators who were skilled in pedagogy before school closures easily transferred effective teaching to the fully remote environment. Administrators would be wise to tap those rock-star educators to help assess, plan and lead effective professional development.

It’s also critical that administrators model the same powerful tools they expect educators to use to deliver instruction, assess students, provide interventions and support cultural diversity and different learning styles. Whatever the model used for professional development within a district, training teachers to implement remote learning is a significant task. There are products available that provide comprehensive professional development support focusing on pedagogy using technology. Teq’s Otis for Educators offers free, high-quality online professional development courses for educators and school leaders to help them implement distance learning. EdTech Teacher’s T21 courses offer full-year, online professional development focused on teaching technology in the 21st century.

What needs to be at the forefront of any development and implementation of remote learning professional development is the entire school community’s commitment to providing high-quality, personalized, and engaging content and instruction. Whether teaching is in person or remote, schools need consistent and clear instructional practices and expectations that can be supported to ensure highly effective teaching and learning. School and district administrators must develop a school culture that embodies a shared sense of purpose, commitment, and responsibility for giving students the best education possible.


How to Improve Remote Learning Experiences

Any K–12 district CTO will tell you that transitioning a school community to a remote learning environment involves long-range strategic planning, resource allocation, focused sustainable professional development, and equitable access to devices and connectivity for students.

However, the race was on when coronavirus pandemic-related state mandates closed school buildings earlier this year. Understanding the detrimental impact that school closures can have on student access to education, school districts rushed to create online learning plans that would ensure educational continuity for the school year’s last months.

Remote Learning Is Not the Same as In-Person Instruction

Classroom teachers and support professionals are especially burdened with sustaining academic growth and the well-being of their students in the new normal. With Wi-Fi hotspots and routers temporarily replacing brick-and-mortar walls, educators and students still need to connect, engage in exciting learning opportunities, strengthen and build skills, and explore and personalize learning with project-based activities. As committed educators, teachers, and support professionals seek to continue using data to drive instruction, assess for mastery, differentiate based on learning abilities and styles, develop relationships, and care for their students’ emotional and physical well-being.

Understandably, educators are overwhelmed with this crisis-driven education model, and many of them attempt to replicate the dynamic face-to-face classroom experience for their students. However, what students can do successfully with teachers in a classroom is not easily duplicated in a virtual one.

Try New Approaches to Make Learning Dynamic

Educational technology and e-learning are not new resources for school districts. Since the rollout of Chromebooks, tablet computers, and laptops for educational use, students and educators have grown more adept at 21st-century skills such as collaboration, creativity, and communication. However, due to the pressure and sense of urgency placed upon dedicated teachers during remote learning, they may find it less intimidating to share long recorded lessons and lectures, create fillable worksheets and assign online multiple-choice types of assessments. According to the SAMR (substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition) model, these strategies are simply a substitution for face-to-face learning and will not transform education in any environment.

Using the International Society for Technology (ISTE) Standards for Students, educators can use remote learning to empower students to be knowledge constructors, computational thinkers, and creative communicators. Using the flipped classroom’s educational approach and including tools such as screen-recording apps, virtual meeting rooms, collaborative documents, and learning management systems can be both short-term and long-term paths to creating dynamic and interactive learning environments.

Use Proven Approaches to Online Instruction

As lifelong learners, educators are always challenging themselves to provide students with the most effective instructional tools and resources.

While this is extraordinarily commendable in this time of educational triage, it is recommended that educators and students use tools already incorporated in their classroom.

It is easy to be enticed by free educational technology resources with quick solutions meant to mirror the traditional learning experience. However overwhelming the obstacles of e-learning, educators should stick with what they know and what already works well when possible.

Educators and administrators should introduce technology into instruction even in this time of forced e-learning through the lens of the Triple E Framework of engagement, enhancement, and extension of learning goals. “Effective technology use in learning is rooted in effective instructional strategies for learning,” University of Michigan professor Liz Kolb says on the Triple E Framework website.

Leveraging technology tools in an e-learning environment that helps ensure students stay on task and reach their learning goals will result in students owning their learning. The approach will also encourage deeper dives into students’ areas of interest and provide real-world and global connections.

Engage in Co-Teaching, and Team Approaches to Support Educators

Educators and support professionals collaborate, share data, and support students on an ongoing basis through department, grade-level, and team meetings. These invaluable opportunities result in increased attendance, reduced numbers of discipline issues, improved academic performance, and better identification of high-risk students.

The silos created with e-learning can have a long-term detrimental impact on students’ future success. To prevent this, educators can implement co-teaching models into their virtual classrooms. Using educational platforms such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams and learning management systems such as Schoology and Canvas, grade-level and content-level educators don’t have to go it alone. Using co-teaching approaches during remote learning — such as parallel, alternate, station, and team teaching — ensures educators are supported. It also will provide a consistent learning experience for students.

Educators are feeling the pain of transitioning and adjusting to remote learning. They are well aware of the impact closed school buildings are having on curriculums, face-to-face student connections, and all learners’ support. It is important to keep three things in mind: Take time to reflect on the experiences gained, the skills learned, and the more robust relationships with colleagues, students, and parents. Continue to address the educational and digital inequities among our students and families that have come to light during this unprecedented crisis. Most importantly, educators play an essential role in students’ lives, whether within the walls of a classroom or on-screen in a Zoom room.

Source: EdTech Magazine

Sustaining Online Learning During COVID-19

When Project Tomorrow surveyed students in 2015 about what they envision schools will look like in 2020, one student described the school as a place where there would be more educational videos, online class discussions, online games, and texting between teachers and students. Everyone would have their tablet or laptop.

In 2020, we lived through the COVID-19 pandemic and in the remote and online environment predicted in 2015.

In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, and Chris O’Neal, a former teacher, and current Blackboard Solutions Engineer, shared front-line stories and tips to provide insight into how to ensure continuity of learning for our students during this unprecedented time.

Three phases of online learning during COVID-19

Using data, stories, and observations collected during Project Tomorrow’s research, Evans discussed the three phases of online learning during COVID-19 and subsequent K-12 school closures.


During the first phase, before school closures, many schools and districts had already begun developing plans for sending devices home with students to provide them with self-directed learning experiences outside of the school day.

However, transitioning to remote online learning was a significant hurdle for teachers and students, who may have had familiarity with using these mobile devices for different digital content types, but not necessarily from the standpoint of using them from an instructional component at home.

During the second phase, which school districts are in now, Evans identified three waves of attention that school districts are experiencing during school closure: responsive support, facilitation of the continuity of learning, and recovery, readjustment, and reinvention.

The third phase of online learning will happen once schools open up again and focus on the questions we should be asking right now during phase two. Building upon what we are experiencing and what we knew before school closures, school leaders should take those reflections to the next level and think about what school looks like in the future and how we will support learning in this new norm.

Tips and strategies for effective online learning

Evans uncovered three distinct insights about online learning during COVID-19 that all school districts have experienced.

The first insight is the trauma of uncertainty impacting the school community about school closures and how and what school will look like in the fall.

The second insight is about the importance of social and emotional supports for both students and teachers when teaching and learning in an unfamiliar education environment.

The third insight is the idea of what school looks like today and what learning looks like in a physical school environment is entirely different than the reality we are all experiencing. “A fire drill is a breeze compared to what teachers are going through right now of having to adjust,” said O’Neal.

While districts may not know what the school will look like in the fall, with summer soon upon us and lifeless chaos, now is the time to plan for possible scenarios.

One of those things is thinking about envisioning learners outside of the classroom: what a classroom looks like at home and how it will impact the work you assign and the learning materials you expect students to create. Teachers should reflect on their new role and the latest strategies to engage students in an online environment.

O’Neal encourages teachers to remember their classroom vibes because they need their classroom vernacular, imagery, and humor. Work with special education teachers and curriculum leaders to evaluate inclusion and diversity strategies to ensure that students’ needs are met. Lastly, lean on your support system, engage in social media communities, and utilize resources and publications.

Source: eSchoolNews

3 Big Ideas for Effective SEL Strategies

Educators, practitioners, and administrators should identify the what, the why, and the how of essential social and emotional learning (SEL) skills when implementing these strategies in an effective manner, according to SEL advocates.

In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Stephanie Jones, director of the Ecological Approaches to Social-Emotional Learning (EASEL) Lab, explained that there are six SEL domains studied and documented by researchers.

The first three domains are skills and competencies: cognitive, emotional, and social. The next three are belief ecologies: attitudes, habits of mind, and ways of thinking about the world. One way to think about how these two sets go together is that one is a set of things you learn and know how to do, and the other is a set of internal guideposts that tell you to use those skills when it’s essential and when it matters.

The what

Regardless of setting or age, the goal of SEL is for students to engage in classroom learning activities, and four key components must be in place for this to happen.

Students need to focus their thinking by marshaling their attention and using their awareness to gather information from the teacher and the book. To access the content, they need to manage their behavior and not be distracted by what’s happening around them. Students need to build positive relationships, so they must trust that an adult is going to be there for them and is giving them information that they can use. Most importantly, children need to understand and deal with feelings throughout the entire learning process.

Why? Why now? Why at all?

Three critical pieces of evidence tell us how vital the research and studies are as they examine effective social and emotional strategies.

Long-term correlation studies provide evidence on how core social and emotional skills measured in early childhood, such as self-control and social competence, are predictive of future life and work outcomes.

The second piece of evidence includes trials of programs, interventions, and strategies designed to improve these skills. Those studies have found that when high-quality programs are implemented with fidelity, there will be a change in children’s abilities.

The third piece of evidence comes out of the world of neuroscience about how stress influences the brain and then cascades into behavior, causing the six domains of SEL to be particularly vulnerable to experiences of stress and adversity.

How? What’s effective? What’s innovative?

For an SEL program to be effective, it must establish safe and caring learning settings characterized by effective behavior management, instruction in social and emotional skills, and give students some ownership of the work itself.

The characteristics of effective SEL education are living and modeling the skills that educators and practitioners hope that children will acquire, and teaching skills directly about the words and what the behaviors look like that are associated with them.

Students must have opportunities to practice their skills, learn from mistakes, and talk about them in a safe environment. Effective social and emotional strategies bridge safe and caring learning environments and instruction with a foundation of connective, supportive, and reciprocal relationships between children and adults.

Originally Published: eSchoolNews 

5 Tips to Design a Future-Focused Edtech Mindset in the Midst of a Pandemic

As of March 29, 2020, school closures due to COVID-19 have impacted at least 124,000 U.S. public and private schools and affected at least 55.1 million students, according to Education Week.

In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Justin Aglio, Director of Academic Achievement and District Innovation for the Montour School District in Pennsylvania, expressed that while we have prepared for school closures due to weather and disasters, school districts have found themselves in an unprecedented reality.

While educators and support staff are trying to ensure continuity of learning for their students during school closures, school and district leaders have an opportunity to design a positive future.

Aglio recommends that districts align every action and decision regarding remote and virtual learning to their mission, vision, and core values. In the Montour School District, they are designing a positive future for Montour schools aligning every action and decision to their three core values: curricula, educational technology, professional development.

Adopt and adapt

As recently as three months ago, school districts had robust, successful adapt and adopt methods for new curricula and programming, including the collaborative process of assessment, observation, and reflection. However, most school districts are forced to adopt and adapt methods for online and remote learning software and curricula due to the current school closure situation.

Aglio points out that school districts must implement the same collaborative process to acquire educational programs and curricula no matter whether stakeholders are meeting in person in a school conference room or online in a Zoom or Google meeting room.

The new August

Aglio recommends that teachers and school leaders take a step back and consider March as the new August, focusing on the start of the school year expectations, curricula, scope and sequence, and relationship building.

He prescribes five tips for designing a student-centered, future-focused edtech mindset:

Ensure equity for all students, especially students with disabilities, low-income students, and ELL students through digital resources such as Google sites and Classrooms, television options such as PBS, and communication tools such as Google phone and snail-mail.

Develop a clear game plan, including clear, precise, and accessible communication options that support the entire school community.

Build a healthy community by focusing on learning for students, teachers, parents, administrators, and school board members while creating a sense of belonging that sends a voice that we are all in this together.

Continue to provide and use quality district vetted resources and not fall into the trap of “trying” new educational resources.

Lastly, school leaders should reflect every day to assess current practices that connect all stakeholders, especially our students.

Source: eSchoolNews

Cultivating a School Culture that Promotes Executive Functioning

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the country struggle to move their brick-and-mortar classrooms to remote online learning environments. While empowering students to take the lead in their education is the vision and mission of school districts, the abrupt move to distance learning has placed a heavy burden on our students.

“What is being asked of our children today in terms of executive functioning is way more complicated than it used to be, and their brains are not more ready,” said Courtney Wittner, M.Ed., director at Hayutin & Associates, during a recent edLeader Panel.

Wittner, along with Renaud Boisjoly, CEO of Studyo, identified and provided valuable strategies for supporting students as they navigate these unprecedented and challenging times with executive functioning skills.

Executive function overview

Executive functions, or EFs, are considered “higher-order” brain functions that can initiate, break down, and follow through on multi-step tasks. Executive function skills help our brains prioritize tasks, filter distractions, and control impulses.

The three core EFs are inhibitory control, such as self-control, discipline, and attention control; working memory, which includes mentally relating one idea or fact to another and reordering the sequence of items; and cognitive flexibility thinking outside the box. A 2007 study found that executive functions are more critical for school readiness than IQ or entry-level reading or math.

Executive function enablers and deficits

Three main factors that impact students’ likelihood of developing executive function skills at school are positive relationships with adults, experiences that foster social connections, and safe, nurturing environments that promote creativity, exploration, and exercise.

If nurtured in young children, the executive functions will allow students to act in a goal-directed manner.

Students with low executive functioning are considered lazy, unmotivated, and apathetic. Teachers and adults can support all students, including students with low executive functioning, by modeling and providing explicit instruction on strategies and skills such as calendar and time management, an environmental organization, self-advocacy, goal-directed behavior, attentiveness, motivation task management, processing speed, informational recall and memory, and study skills.

Fostering a culture that promotes executive functioning

Supporting and developing critical executive function skills involves the entire school community. Steps to encourage a school culture that promotes executive functioning includes analyzing current systems, assessing physical or social learning environments, and providing teacher training and executive function professional development opportunities.

Educators need to teach executive function skills during the school day and model planning and study skills to generalize these skills and take agency and ownership of these skills themselves.

As students enter upper elementary and middle school, the focus on executive function strategies declines, so students show up to high school and don’t know how to take notes or study.

The presenters recommend teaching executive function skills and strategies at an early age. This can decrease anxiety and result in overall competence as a learner to ensure success in college and beyond.

Originally Published: eSchoolNews

Keep Stress at Bay–Keep Calm and Teach!

The management concept is known as the Peter Principle. People become ineffective when promoted to a level where they no longer have the skills to be successful and applicable to teachers.

Whether highly-successful teachers choose a career path that takes them out of the classroom or whether they choose to stay in the classroom, job-related burnout issues are a high possibility, according to Ginger Welch, Ph.D., associate professor of professional practice at Oklahoma State University, in a recent edWebinar.

It is essential to reduce these issues by keeping the passion for teaching alive and manage careers by addressing the stress and anxiety associated with burnout and learn how to control our cognitive thinking.

Cognitive errors

Our thinking connects to our behavior, and Welch said our thoughts could be the most effective weapon to combat stress. However, our cognitive errors or distortions can manifest as truths that can be disruptive, negative, and destructive. We need to be aware of “shoulds”: filtering, mind-reading, overgeneralization, and all-or-nothing thinking patterns.

“Shoulds” are irrational thoughts that say we should be doing something, and these thoughts of failure can lead to anxiety issues. Filtering is when we zoom in on the negative, and we minimize or ignore anything that went well. Mind reading can keep us from taking action because we assume that we know what’s going to happen. When overgeneralization occurs, we take one situation and turn it into a pattern for future encounters. All-or-nothing thinking can unconsciously bubble up, and we tend to be very black and white about our thinking, which results in missing out on the gray areas of life.

Barriers to effective communication

What’s happening inside you directly impacts what happens between you and other people. Most people experience anxiety that can be a real, significant barrier to overcome in interpersonal communication.

Stress makes us feel like we’re the only ones who could feel this way, which leads to insecurity, lack of confidence, and the inability to relate to others.

According to Welch, it takes real work to become self-aware of anxiety and fears to reduce the impression of being angry, stuck up, or shy.

Managing the stress

Your ability to be the teaching superhero depends on three things: formal teaching education, personal background, and ability to tolerate stress and care for yourself. So, we need to purposefully be mindful of our thought patterns, unconscious behaviors, and expectations of others.

To change our cognitive thinking, we have to replace the errors or disruptions with positive thinking. Tolerating stress and caring for yourself is a learned skill you have to build into your life. Set healthy boundaries by paying attention to our own needs and being careful with our information, time, bodies, and money.

These boundaries will ensure that we make sound judgments about what hurts us and what helps other people. Take care of yourself by cognitively assessing your values, relationships with other people, and your expectations for yourself and other people. What are your messages about others and yourself?


Accepting failure as usual and not a sign of imperfection and doing your best even when others do not are meaningful ways to care for yourself and reduce stress in your personal and professional life.

Originally Published: eSchoolNews

Strategies for Changing Challenging Behaviors of Students With Autism

“Every individual should be able to access things that they like,” said Monica Fisher, M.Ed., BCBA/COBA, director of the behavior department at Monarch Center for Autism during an edWebinar.

“It is our right to engage in preferred activities, spend time with family, and connect with the community. If there are behaviors that you are seeing in your students with disabilities and challenging behaviors that are limiting these rights, then it is something we need to fix as it can have a long-term impact on their quality of life.”

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a technological and professional systematic approach, is designed to analyze and change behavior by identifying a behavioral problem, gathering relevant data, and formulating/testing a hypothesis. Fisher said that while ABA is a useful tool for looking at and changing the challenging behaviors of students with autism, it can apply to different parts of everyone’s lives.

Three-Term Contingency or ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) goes hand in hand with ABA. ABC is an essential, evidence-based method of examining and changing what people say and do. Fisher explained, “If you want to change behavior, you have to look at the antecedent (action, event, or circumstance that occurs immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (action or response that immediately follows the behavior) applied.”

Challenging behavior
Challenging behaviors in the form of hitting, kicking, biting, and head-banging are not unique to students with autism. However, students with autism can also display challenging behaviors through physical and verbal aggression, self-injury, elopement, property destruction, tantrums, and non-compliance. According to ABA literature, there are four main functions of challenging behavior: attention, escape, access to tangibles, and automatic/sensory. Fisher expounded that it is essential to understand that all behaviors serve a function and they will persist if they are meeting a need for a student.

When a student receives attention after a problem behavior, it may increase the likelihood that the problem behavior will occur in the future under similar circumstances. When an individual engages in challenging behavior, it could be to escape or postpone an aversive event such as classwork or to be given access to tangibles and other reinforcing objects such as more computer time. The challenging behavior of automatic/sensory such as rocking or hand-slapping may reinforce on their own and does not depend on the actions or presence of others.

Important to remember
There are essential skills relating to the functions of behavior that should be taught to children at a young age that could decrease the chances that challenging behaviors will develop.

Challenging behaviors can have a long history of reinforcement, making them resistant to change, so Fisher advises that changes will take time and effort and data will play a significant role in analyzing the behavioral changes.

A teacher or parent may feel that the reinforcers for changing the challenging behavior are not sufficient, but once the data is analyzed, it may show that there is a slight change in the action. It is also critical that, when initially teaching a replacement behavior, the new skill needs to be low-effort and reinforced every time with a potent reinforcer. Finally, problem behavior has worked in the past to get the individual what they want or need so it is essential for teachers and parents to remember not to personalize a student’s challenging behavior.

Source: Strategies for changing challenging behaviors of students with autism eSchoolNews January 2019 


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