“When parents, teachers, students and others view one another as partners in education, a caring community forms around students...”

–   Joyce L. Epstein et al., School, Family and Community
Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action
(2nd edition)

School administrator leadership

Working collaboratively with other school staff, administrators can create environments that sustain positive behaviour support. Their involvement and leadership is key to the success of the initiative.

The school administrator is key to the success of any school-wide systems improvement initiative. According to a recent article on advocacy in the Education Law Journal:

“… a school principal is at the centre of a complex organizational web. There are strands inside the school to the various points of service delivery. There are strands that extend outward to families, and the community, as well as to local and regional agencies and groups. There are strands that extend upward to the school district and from there to the ministry of education” (Smith 2007, p. 279).

School administrators can and should:

  • identify positive behaviour supports as an important school-improvement goal
  • be knowledgeable about positive behaviour support practices and systems change
  • participate in core team meetings and related training
  • model and visibly implement new practices (e.g., active supervision techniques) and reinforce staff who model new practices
  • actively and frequently monitor and acknowledge students who meet behavioural expectations
  • allocate resources to sustain positive behaviour supports.

Collaboration supports consistency

Consistency is an essential element of a school-wide approach. When all adults in the school community respond in a similar way, students have a better sense of how they are expected to behave.

If a student behaves inappropriately, the first adult to see this behaviour is responsible for addressing it, regardless of who that student’s classroom or homeroom teacher is. Similarly, any or all school staff who witness positive behaviour should provide on-the-spot reinforcement for that behaviour.

When the school has an agreed-upon plan for consistency and collaboration, all adults in the school are more willing and able to assume responsibility for all students. Mutual decision making to develop action plans and resolve problems creates opportunities for all members of the school community to make a contribution. The result is a more effective and inclusive positive behaviour support system.

Involving all staff

Two years ago our senior high school began a positive behaviour support approach that used a tracking system to collect data on positive and negative student behaviour.

I participated from the beginning because I work in the lunchroom. There is a computer right in the lunchroom that we use to log incidents. Previously, the school had not kept a record of incidents. Once we started this new tracking system, we had a clearer picture of what was going on.

Having this data and talking about behaviour has helped school staff handle behaviour incidents more consistently. It has also helped students to know there is a procedure if they mess up, and steps to go through. The students sign a code of conduct to show that they understand this.

This approach has really made our school community more responsible. Everyone is more involved in creating a positive learning environment. I’m pleased to be part of the process and to be able to see the positive changes in behaviour, especially in the lunchroom. The students are more aware of the consequences of their behaviour and are more committed to making the school a good place for everyone.

– Lunchroom supervisor, senior high school

Building a team approach

Positive relationships among and between staff members are key to successfully implementing a school-wide approach to support positive behaviour. Research has indicated that the following characteristics promote positive staff relationships and a healthy school culture:11

  • collegiality
  • experimentation
  • high expectations
  • trust and confidence
  • tangible support
  • appreciation and recognition
  • caring, celebration and humour
  • involvement in decision making
  • protection of what’s important
  • meaningful traditions
  • honest, open communication.

To build a team approach, consider using the following strategies.

  • Recognize that each staff member has something to offer. Create opportunities for staff to express their opinions, and acknowledge individual members’ contributions.
  • Ensure that many people share leadership responsibilities. Notice when team members are fatigued, and encourage others to step forward and share the load.
  • Build a sense of security and trust through openness and the sharing of ideas and strategies. When a team member is comfortable with coming forward and asking for help with difficulties, other team members have an opportunity to offer the benefit of their experiences.
  • Provide inservice training to support and motivate staff, or have one or more staff members attend a session and tell others what they’ve learned.
11. Adapted from Saphier, J. & King, M. (1985, March). “Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures.” Educational Leadership, 42( 6), 67. Adapted with permission from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.