Focus on Prevention
Why Focus on the Positive?
The game Whac-A-Mole at Chuck-E-Cheese is a favorite. The player gets to take a padded mallet and pound down small plastic rodents as they pop up. At level one, only one mole pops up at a time. Level two takes some coordination as two or three might pop up at the same time. Level three is designed to fail: multiple rodents pop up and mock you as you desperately swing and miss.
A classroom can be the same. While it may be possible redirect one negative behavior, "Johnny, please sit down." Or even two negative behaviors. It can get out of hand quickly and makes the day long and exhausting. By focusing on the positive, reinforcing what you WANT to see, other students get the message that attention is gained by participating in appropriate behavior in the classroom. Over time, students develop a culture of positive peer influence that requires little more than random praise.
The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is certainly true for behavior in schools. It is expensive to focus on individual students. If more than 20% of students are receiving more than one office discipline referral, the school will never have enough resources or administrator time to provide effective interventions. This is one of many reasons why PBIS implementation focuses for the first few years on building a very strong Tier 1 foundation that serves all students. When students can respond to school-wide expectations, develop social emotional learning skills, and become an engaged part of the school community, the number of discipline incidents drops. With the few that still struggle with behavior, we can intervene with targeted support and, if necessary, even intensive, individual support.