Positive Behavior Intervention and Support: Words of Understanding

Words of Understanding demonstrate a conscious, deliberate effort to understand someone else’s perspective by putting yourself in their position, putting yourself in their shoes, seeing things through their eyes, and hearing things through their ears. Simple Choice2When individual student issues arise, these words demonstrate the desire to truly understand “what’s going on” with the student by asking thoughtful questions that get to the root of the problem. Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) programs can be strengthened when teachers use Words of Understanding to demonstrate both the desire to understand “why” students are misbehaving, and the support to help solve the behavior problems.

When students are misbehaving in class, or are disengaged, there is a tendency for us to react in a way to preserve our pride, dignity, and control. There is a big difference between a teacher exclaiming, “You don’t need to be sleeping in my class!” opposed to pulling the student aside privately and asking, “Is everything ok–I noticed that you were sleeping in class?” We need to unselfishly take our pride out of the equation and really pursue the student’s needs and try to understand the student’s perspective. Why are they sleeping in class? When other misbehaviors occur, we need to ask: What’s causing that student to challenge me? Why is that student so angry with the other student? Why is that student choosing certain behaviors that are destructive rather than constructive? SkillsYouthSuicide2

By separating the student from their behavior we start to get a different picture of the circumstances surrounding the student’s behavior. That’s not to say that their behavior will be accepted in the classroom. However, when we have insight into why students are making certain choices we get closer to understanding how to help them find a solution to their problem.

These Best Practice Language (BPL) examples show students that we care about them, and we want to get to the “root of the problem,” so we can help them solve it!

“I know you are angry, and I understand why you would feel that way. However, you and I need to talk about a way to help you control that anger.”

“It seems like you are having a hard time today. Help me understand what’s going on.”

“Your outburst really took me by surprise—what’s up? Help me understand why you said that?”

SkillsYouthSuicide1The ultimate goal for using Words of Understanding in the classroom is to enable students to experience and practice empathy for others. The following BPL examples will promote an environment of empathy in your classroom:

“If someone makes a mistake in our classroom it is important to think about how you react to that mistake. In our classroom we will treat others the way we want be treated.”

“How would it make you feel if someone said that to you?”

“How did you feel when that happened? Would you like to talk about it? How can I help you?”

This post is part seven in a series of posts on what Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) “sounds like” in the classroom. The original post can be found at: eyeoneducation.com

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