Saturday, May 24, 2014

SWPBIS How To! Year Of Preparation

This school year, my school embarked in an endeavor that we all hoped would lead to a change in school climate and an increase in student pro-social behavior. Our school committee worked on our SWPBIS (School-Wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) plan for an entire school year and rolled it out in September 2013. We had many learnings during the year of preparation and during this first year of implementation that I thought I'd share with all of you!

Year of Preparation
You may be thinking "a whole year of preparation" -- in school-time, a year seems like an eternity to be working on something. If you take nothing else from this post, remember that it takes that long to do justice in developing a comprehensive plan that will meet the needs of the of students in your school. It takes that long to train the committee, to lobby for buy-in from all staff members, and to attempt to think of each detail that will affect implementation. It takes that long to create the materials (posters, signs, newsletters, the actual plan, etc.). This isn't something to rush with...a rush job will lead to messy and ineffective implementation.

During that Year of Preparation do the following:
  1. Carefully create a committee of school leaders, cheerleaders, hard-workers, and even some nay-sayers. Our committee has a representative from each grade level, special education, a parent, administration, and me (school counselor).
  2. Schedule at least 3 full days of work-time for the committee. You will need additional half-days or after-school workdays, but start with 3 full-days.
  3. If possible, secure an outside specialist in SWPBIS to guide the committee work. I found that it was really difficult to do this on our own (even though we got it done). I think an expert in the process of setting up a SWPBIS program would have kept us focused, passed along their learnings/expertise to create a professional development opportunity for our committee, and would have been able to challenge our thinking while holding us accountable.
  4. Create parameters and game-rules for the committee. It needs to be a safe environment where all feel comfortable to share, but also know that there will be difference of opinion and it will be okay to hash that all out. 
  5. Whether done by an outside consultant or in-house, whoever is leading the charge needs to create a presentation for the committee which trains them in the history of SWPBIS, why SWPBIS, review of school data, etc. This training piece is KEY. During this training, there needs to be built in time for discussion, opinion sharing, disagreeing, discussion, etc. Again, this training needs to be extremely informative and should challenge the committee members thinking or maybe even their way of doing things. is a great place to go to for information. Also on that site, you can find consultants in your are that may be able to help your school committee.
  6. After this training, the rest of the staff need to begin to be brought on board. Our staff was trained in similar information as the committee was (although not as formally or thoroughly as I would have liked). A consultant, at this step, would have been helpful - to do a staff presentation on all the ins and outs. If a consultant is not available, I recommend deciding "as a committee" what will be presented to the staff, how, and who on the committee will be responsible for each piece of this particular training. I also recommend "a committee presentation"  so the plan is viewed as a collective program and not a "new program" developed by just one person. There will be more buy-in from the beginning.
  7. Next, the committee needs to meet again (I recommend another full day). On this day, start talking about what the program will look like. What system will be used in each classroom? What will the rewards be? What will the consequences be? What are the procedures for the school-wide system. This is such a huge task that it took multiple days to get this done.I am a stickler when it comes to trying to think of everything -- I didn't want to go into this school year with questions on how we were doing things. We needed to be clear so the students (and their parents were clear). We shared with the staff bits and pieces of what were thinking about implementing.
  8. We created a SWPBIS document that outlined all of our decisions and how the plan was going to work at our school.
  9. After we figured out the plan, we hashed out the school rules: 1. Be Respectful 2. Be Responsible 3. Be Safe. We came up with the expectations for each of those rules (what it would look/sound like if you were respectful, responsible, and safe) in each of the following areas: Classroom, Cafeteria, Hallway/Stairwell, Bathroom, Bus, and Playground. Posters were created for each classroom (that included all of the rules) and posters were made for each location so that the rules could be posted there. This step is very time consuming...there was a lot of discussion over wording and again, we attempted to be as specific as possible.
  10. We rolled out the entire plan to the school staff. Each member of the committee explained a piece of the plan to the staff. We did this at the end of the school year and revisited it again before the students arrived in September - just to make sure everyone was on board. Everyone in the school is expected to follow our SWPBIS plan!
  11. Please note: Expect a lot of work and commitment during this preparation year! A creative person needs to be on your team to put together all the information and make all the documents (the plan, the posters, etc.). One person needs to be in charge of this so all materials are consistent and have the same formatting. For this person, this is a huge project. I was this person and I spent hours, and hours, and hours creating - mostly on my own time. I joke with the committee that I will NEVER develop a "from-scratch" SWPBIS program again! It is that intensive...but worth the work if you can manage it.
I assure you, the work will be well worth it! Keep reading, Entirely Elementary...School Counseling for the next installment of SWPBIS How To! I'll be writing about our actual SWPBIS plan!