If you work in special education, chances are that you have at least been a witness to a major behavior incident or even been part of a school wide crisis team. This is the part of our job that no one wants to talk about, but it is extremely important that we do. We shouldn’t shy away from the difficult conversations because they are uncomfortable. I’ve even heard teachers complain about administrators or parents who ask “Is there anything that could’ve been done differently?” And honestly… I hated that too for so so long! I wanted to shout “NO!” because I took it as them questioning my ability to do my job rather than asking me to reflect on the situation for the next time.
Reflection on one’s teaching practices is the hallmark of any good teacher. It shouldn’t begin and end with lesson plans. We should be extending this to all areas of our teaching craft because lets face it, the actual teaching method is such a small portion of what we do. When I really started to think about it, I realized that these were not judgmental questions. How else are we to change our approach if things are not working well unless we incorporate reflection into our process? In 2018, I began asking myself 4 questions after each event and it has transformed my approach to behavior incidents and the aftermath.
4 Questions to Ask Yourself After Every Student Crisis
Did the crisis team respond according to plan?
If you have a crisis team, staff that respond to assist in a behavior episode, or are a part of that team, it’s important to reflect on the ability of that team to work together. I share with my team every year that only 1 to 2 people should be speaking to the student when in a crisis situation if at all. I usually try to maintain the ability make the decisions because it is important that the person making decisions knows the student’s plan inside and out. There should be also be a team leader established. Usually it is the first person interacting in the situation. There is nothing wrong with stating that you will be taking the lead so that everyone is aware.
If you have a specific plan for a student in crisis, was it implemented? Is there something that needs to be addressed with the team later to make the response smoother the next time? (cause lets face it, as much as we don’t want there to be a next time, there probably will be).
Was there something that I could’ve done differently?
Yes, I know this question makes our blood boil sometimes because we want to believe we did everything right in the moment. Even the best teacher or behavior analyst can make mistakes though so it’s an important reflection we should think about. We are human and humans aren’t perfect. Often within my reflection, this question gets me to identify ways that I responded to a student that was less than ideal. Did I give attention when I could’ve just ignored it? Did I engage in a power struggle? Did I stand my ground when I should’ve given space? All of these are things I consider when I reflect on this question.
What was the antecedent (trigger) and consequence to the behavior episode?
This is so important to identify. There is nothing worse than having a plan that doesn’t address the triggers that are occurring. You can also look for patterns amongst the triggers. If your plan does address those frequent triggers then the next question would be do I need to do something else or am I accidentally reinforcing that behavior. I’ve worked with students where even just a twitch in the wrong direction can be reinforcing to them. You can also look at the reinforcement systems you have in place and make sure that the student can access the reinforcer without engaging in the behavior.
Finally, Is the behavior plan still effective?
This is the question that requires the ever frustrating data collection. If you feel like the behaviors are increasing in frequency get that data out and look at the graphs. If your data is showing an increase in the target behaviors, chances are that your team needs to re-evaluate the behavior plan and possibly go back to identifying the function again. We never want to make decisions in regards to behavior plans based on our personal emotions. The data can help guide us in knowing what to do next.