Interventions to address behavior issues in the classroom

Standing in a room full of educators at NSEA U in July, Brandy casually listed the certifications and trainings that make her uniquely qualified to present on “Strategies for Understanding Student Behaviors.” The list included: Education Specialist, (EdS degree), Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Mandt Certification. Brandy works with students in a tier three behavior program while also helping teachers implement interventions in their own classrooms.

She shared a photo of a boy who she said has challenged her expertise in psychology more than anyone she’s worked with: her toddler-aged son.

“My little guy,” she explained to attendees. “I like to include him in my presentations because it’s truly humbling. I thought I knew everything. Then I become a mom and everything I thought I knew about children changes.”

Her point for attendees is that all children challenge us and we bring those life experiences to the classroom. Brandy understands the ever-evolving challenges of student behaviors in the classroom. The research and recommendations on how to combat these behaviors is also a moving target for educators seeking answers. There isn’t a one-size fits all for interventions and implementing changes takes patience and support from everyone involved in public education.

“Part of my work is to talk through scenarios with educators. When I go into schools, I really try to help educators realize they’re not alone. These are challenges every school is facing. I have so many real life stories. I think I’ve heard it all—seen it all—and then something new happens. I think I could write a novel on the things that I’ve experienced so far.”

Brandy believes what these students need most is consistency and predictability.

“I think a lot of my ‘behavior’ students come from a difficult home life,” she said. “Most often the reasons behind why students are exhibiting these behaviors in the classroom won’t make you angry.  More than likely, it’s going to break your heart.”

What Students Need
The first steps to successfully intervene in these behaviors is consistent communication among teams, building trust between staff and parents, and fostering a healthy relationship with your students. Students are going to test educators before they will trust them, she explained.

“Students will not give us their best until they know we can handle them at their worst,” Brandy said.

The ABCs of Behavior
Brandy points to the three common components of the most challenging behaviors: the “ABCs.” It stands for Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. Antecedent is the “where and when.” What event occurred right before the behavior? Behavior is identifying the actions taken after the antecedent. Consequence is any observable reactions immediately following the behavior. Lastly, consequences get the root of “why” the behavior occurs. Identifying the ABCs is the first step before implementing interventions. Brandy offers examples of ABCs in action and some strategies to reduce any unwanted behaviors, outlined in this document, as published in The Voice, Sept. '22, page 13.