August, 2013

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Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment


There’s a reason for every student’s behavior! Jack has not “lost his mind”. Jill is not “trying to drive you crazy”. He or she is trying to get something or avoid something. Now you have to be the detective and figure out what it is. Many teachers overlook this detective step and skip to a quick fix.

Imagine if you went to the doctor and complained of pain in your arm and the doctor just said to take some ibuprofen. Well, if your arm is broken, that ibuprofen will not work. This is the same thing for student behavior. If a student is not doing his school work, you may send him to time out. If he is avoiding doing school work because he doesn’t understand it, your discipline will not fix the problem. It is actually helping the student avoid work.

I call this a Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment because it just takes a few minutes to do. This is not a formal assessment many specialists prefer. It’s for the classroom teacher who has to deal with tough behaviors all the time.

One of my favorite encounters with a 3rd grade teacher was when she stopped me in the hallway and explained a problem she was having with a student. Before I could say a thing, she went on to quickly analyze his behavior. She specifically described his behavior, said he acted out at specific times, she thought he was doing it because ____, and thought she could take care of the problem by ____. She then thanked me for the help! I said, “You’re welcome!” and smiled all the way to my classroom. She did a Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment right there in the hallway in less than 5 minutes!

Let’s get started! Download Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment Teacher Reflection. Use this list to help you analyze what is going on.

In the next few days, I will show you how to use this Quick & Easy Functional Behavior Assessment and turn it into a behavior intervention plan.

See you soon, LuAnne


Counseling CHATS

chats logo

Over the years, one thing I’ve learned is that a friendly chat, a few words of encouragement, or a five-minute “touching base with” conversation can go a LONG way with students. It is rewarding to see the appreciation in students’ faces when you take a little time to intentionally talk with them individually, genuinely asking how they’ve been.

In counseling, we are taught that our counseling sessions with students should be a minimum of 30 minutes, perhaps longer for teens. In a school setting, this creates multiple issues… missed instruction for students and a reduction in the amount of students a counselor is able to help in a given day. While there are certainly situations when students need significant time to meet with the counselor, the use of “counseling chats” is a strategy I find beneficial, and they’re fun!

Sometimes my “chats” are planned—I set aside an hour or two to run anywhere from 5-10 students through my office (or perhaps we stand outside their classroom or sit outside on a bench on a pretty day).  If the chat has been fairly benign and problem-free (always a good thing!), I give the student a chance to bring up a potential issue towards the end by saying “It’s been great catching up with you. Before you go back to class, is there anything bothering you that you want to talk with me about?”  Sometimes this results in our “chat” turning into a counseling session.  Most often this is not the case, but either way, it clearly sends the message to the student that I continue to be available as a resource if something were to arise.

I find that counseling chats:

  • show students you continue to care and are genuinely interested in them,
  • allow you to follow-up with many more students,
  • give you time to work with new students in crisis while still keeping up with previous student-clients,
  • allow students to continue receiving tidbits of counseling information,
  • remind students that there is at least one adult who cares about them in a meaningful way,
  • remind students that I am always available.

Personally, I find that counseling chats fire me up. They are motivational as a counselor because they give me a chance to interact with students who were previously in distress under more favorable circumstances. We get to “debrief” and celebrate success and improvement.  CHATS are prevention and an excellent way to stay connected with students, even after problems have been resolved.  If you are interested in being more intentional in having CHATS with your students this year, here is a free handout that reviews the basic components and a mini-poster that serves as a visual reminder to do CHATS throughout the year.

Those Pesky Critters……….



School is  back in session.  The children gather and lots of little heads are  in one place. With that comes all they bring with them.  Time for reading , writing and head lice.  Yes, lice.  They are in your school, and in your classrooms. You can use this PowerPoint for yourself or to teach others the basics.

When my youngest was in kindergarten, she had blonde hair down to her backside. And imagine my surprise when I found a headful of those lovely creatures one afternoon. It was a good lesson for me in empathy for  families.  It took us quite some time (and a haircut) to be rid of them, despite hours of nit picking, hair combing, an electric lice shocking device, olive oil, and over the counter products. I even had a microscope at home to try to figure it all out.  When I saw her with her baby doll between her knees one day, pretending to pick nits- I knew my approach needed to change.  Many weeks had passed… it was time. One treatment with a prescription product and we were done!  (There are lice that are resistant to some of the over-the-counter products and that’s what we had)!

You discover one or more children in your school or room with head lice.  What are you to do?  The first thing is to keep calm! Lice are a nuisance and a pain but are NOT a health risk. They are not known to carry disease in the United States.   Secondly, if you haven’t already- you should educate yourself on how they are passed from one person to the next.  Despite what you may have been told- they do NOT jump or fly.  Head lice are passed by direct head to head transmission. Meaning, one head needs to touch another.  There are theories that they can live in carpets and various inanimate objects but the evidence says this is just a theory.  And the lice in your school aren’t setting out to look for other places to live. They are perfectly content where they are as long as a human head is involved.  If they get passed along, it’s due to happenstance- they aren’t mounting expeditions looking for a new home!!

When kids get head lice there is a course of action that should be taken, and the ultimate fix often isn’t with just one treatment.  Children should only be treated when live lice are present, nits do not confirm an active  case.  When a child is diagnosed with head lice a pediculicide (medicine which kills lice) should be used. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting with 1% permethrin lotion (Nix) initially.  This product is not 100% ovicidal (meaning it doesn’t kill all the eggs) so a second treatment is needed in 7 to 10 days. What does this mean for folks in school?  That it’s normal to see live lice again after treatment in about a week and not that kids have gotten them again.  There are lots of “natural” products available but medical studies have not supported their effectiveness.  There are several websites supporting things like “no- nit” policies and exclusion of children from school.  Organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics say these policies are counter productive and should not be adopted.  For more information on head lice treatment go to:

Often I see the same children repeatedly dealing with head lice.  This becomes frustrating for schools.  In these situations families need additional support. Hopefully you have a school nurse who can be involved (if you don’t- your school needs one!)  As mentioned earlier, lice can be resistant to over the counter treatment so a health care provider may need to be involved.  In my own situation I know I was doing the “right” things yet it was still difficult to get rid of.  The prescription medicine made the difference.  Sometimes we have to help families understand or get additional help.

You may be thinking that we need to just go straight to prescription medication.  That is not recommended because lice will soon become resistant to those treatments if over used.

In my years of school nursing, head lice has been what has gotten me yelled at the most, by parents and by school staff, and any of you who work in schools can likely say the same. It’s a very emotional issue, and no one wants to have head lice.  The more you educate yourself the better.  Not only to help decrease the spread in your school and classroom, but also when it comes to knowing what to do to help.  When you discover lice in a student, I recommend the following:

1.  Make sure it’s really lice.  That sounds crazy but there have been studies showing that many times kids are diagnosed with “lice” in school when they don’t really have it.

2. Check your school/district policies.  Most kids have had lice for a month or more before it’s discovered. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not recommend they be sent home that day.  You need to know what your policy says but know that it hurts them academically when they are excluded.

3. Make sure the school nurse is involved (I do so hope you have one). She/he is a great support and help for you and families.

4. Let the parent/guardian know.  Hopefully you have a nurse or resource who can help guide them through the best options for treatment.

5.  Know that its normal to see live lice  in 7 to 10 days.  This doesn’t mean they got it “again”.

6.Check your practices or (if you aren’t a teacher) the classroom where the student(s) are- do the kids lay in a spot (such as a special reading place) with their heads all together?  Are their coats/jackets all piled up in one place?  These could be ways to transmit at school!

7.  Know some good referral sources (this is for school nurses as well!)  I teach parents that they should do an over the counter permethrin or pyrethrin (if no allergies), and then to repeat in 7 to 10 days.  If they see live lice in their child’s hair  7 to 10 days after that second treatment I usually refer to their health care provider, or assist the families in getting a prescription medication.

The problem can be a challenge but we are smarter than the critters! Don’t let it be a barrier to your success in school!




raising hands

Today, teachers face enormous pressure to raise test scores. We feel like we never have enough time to get to all our content. You can gain more time to teach content by mastering the skills listed below! This list of skills is essential to a well run classroom. Take the year to work on this…just work on a couple at a time so you can truly master the skill.

Download a teacher-friendly copy here.

Good luck, LuAnne



Your district has many expert teachers. We encourage you to seek out these experts and learn their technique. If you are not sure who the expert is, ask your mentor, your administrator, or your peers.

As you observe/interview,

• Make note of what the expert does.

• How can you modify that technique to suit your style?

• How effectively are you implementing it?

In your building/district, WHO is the best with…

…using humor well while teaching?

…using transitions in the classroom and throughout the building?

…teaching classroom routines well?

…motivating students in class?

…greeting students as they arrive each morning/each class period?

…giving tons of positive feedback to students (maintains at least a 6:1 positive/negative ratio of interaction)?

…actively supervising throughout the instructional activity?

…having clear, positively stated and posted classroom behavior expectations?

…managing minor rule violations quickly and discretely?

…precorrecting predictable student problem behaviors?

…managing major rule violations?

…utilizing peer tutors?

…managing homework?

…providing specific feedback after analyzing student work?

…using bell ringer activities or flashback review?

…posting academic/learning objective for each lesson/period?

…implementing active student engagement techniques?

…managing instructional time efficiently and effectively?

…using various levels of questioning?

…using a unique strategy to stimulate learning?

…using multiple learning styles in teaching?

…challenging the gifted learner?

…assessing using various assessment styles?

…preparing well developed lesson plans?

…checking students for content mastery continuously?

…helping underachieving students?

…collaborating/co-teaching well?

…working with the learner with special learning needs?

…writing/implementing open response questions?

…writing/implementing on-demand prompts?

…implementing exit slips?

…integrating technology into instruction?

…communicating with parents?

Do you develop weekly lesson plans with your content partner?

Do you analyze student work at least weekly with your content partner?


Pegs with schoolhouse

One School Nurse + One Behavior Specialist + One School Psychologist =

The Untested ESSENTIALS of Learning

A square peg in a round hole is an idiomatic expression which describes the unusual individualist who could not fit into a niche of his or her society.[1] ^ Wallace, Irving. (1957) The Square Pegs: Some Americans Who Dared to be Different, p. 10.

Above found at

 Most employees of school districts are… [insert a drum roll here]…teachers.  And the customers of their expertise are the wonderful students who walk through the doors of their respective schools each day, ready to learn all the fascinating things teachers have prepared to teach.

[Insert the sound of screeching brakes] Hold on a minute!

What happens if a student walks through the doors of the school and is not 100% ready to learn? What if the student is not even 50% ready to learn? What if the student is hungry? Sleep deprived? Scared because yesterday another student threatened to beat him up? Worried because her mother’s boyfriend threw her mother around the kitchen last night? Angry because her family’s electricity was turned off the night before? Sad because his grandfather is dying? What if the student, himself, is sick? Or has a learning disability? Or has attention span issues? Or…well, you get the point.  The list of hypotheticals is endless.

In an average day in a classroom of 25 students, there are probably at least 5-6 students who have some sort of barrier that interferes with his or her ability to learn academics optimally.  That’s where we come in…The 3 Square Pegs. Our jobs are to provide support services to students, their families, and the teaching staff so that teachers are able to teach, and more importantly, students are able to maximize learning.

What can you expect from our blog? Our focus will be on the multitude of untested essentials that are required for learning to occur.  Head lice? Check. Classroom design? Check. Bully Prevention? Check. De-escalation strategies? Check. And on and on the list goes. These essentials will be in the form of a host of practices at the district, school, classroom, and individual student levels.  With our 60+ years of collective experience in helping teachers teach and students learn, we think we have something to offer.

We are blessed to work in a school district that has vision. To be a small, rural school district with approximately 2,600 students, having a Nurse Practitioner designated as the district’s Director of the Coordinated School Health Program, a School Psychologist functioning as a district-wide counselor to support our excellent guidance counselors, and a Behavior Consultant who is currently the Director of our Alternative Education Program, we consider ourselves rather unique.

Per the meaning of “A square peg in a round hole”, we are unusual individualists who do not fit into a niche of our society (aka, schools). Don’t confuse our “not fitting neatly into our educational society” as meaning that we are not wanted there or that we don’t want to be there! We are welcomed and appreciated by the educators with whom we have the privilege of working. We just happen to think differently in some respects. While we all want the best for our students, our focus is on the many foundational essentials required for learning to even be an option.  Teachers teach.  They are under tremendous pressure to improve achievement and adhere to new national standards. The three of us provide support services, direct and indirect, to our district’s excellent teachers and awesome students. The result? Students who, for the most part, come to school happy, healthy, and ready to learn.  Not BECAUSE of us, but with our help, these students achieve more academic, behavioral, and social/emotional success.

What can you expect in the days and weeks to come? The format of our blog, while it has the common thread of addressing barriers to learning, will shift as each of us take on the responsibility of writing one or two blog entries per week.

What Are YOU Willing To Do Differently In Order To Have Your Student Behave Differently?


Emails frequently come in, asking for assistance regarding students who are, for a whole host of reasons, not learning.  Inattentive. Defiant. Disrupting the learning of others. Not doing her work. Out of his seat. Blurting out. Hitting others. Tantruming.  Anxious.  The list goes on and on…

This is not an elementary issue.  This is not a middle school issue.  This is not a high school issue.  This is not a public school issue.  This is not a private school issue.  This is an “equal opportunity” issue.  In a given year, I typically assist students in grades preschool through the senior year of high school.  And, since I often indirectly help the student, she may never meet me.  She may not ever know my name.  But, in order for me to help the student, the REAL target of my help is not the student.  The REAL target of my help is the teacher, the one who wants the student to change somehow for the better.  More attentive. More compliant. More cooperative. More in control. More school work completed.

As educators, we must be skilled experts in our areas of teaching.  We must know what to teach and how to teach. But, equally important is the frequently minimized craft of managing students in the classroom.  I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that to effectively teach any content whatsoever, we must first be able to manage the students whom we are teaching.

When a teacher asks for help in managing a troubling behavior of a specific student, the first question I ask the teacher is “What are YOU willing to do differently in order to have your student behave differently?”  This is a crucial question.  The student has absolutely NO incentive to change if status quo continues.  When you begin to change how you respond to the undesired behavior, whether you start reinforcing desirable behaviors or you start punishing undesirable behaviors, the student’s behavior has a high probability of changing, as well.  Ironically, this concept is true in any relationship between two people. Parent-child. Husband-wife. Siblings. Good friends.  If you want the other person to change in some way behaviorally, your best chance of having this happen is by changing how you respond to that person when he or she is doing the undesired behavior.

Teachers are some of the busiest people in the world (you know it’s bad when you can’t find time in your day to use the restroom, and “lunch” is a 5-minute binge). It is not always possible to determine how much time a particular student’s behavior takes away from instruction, but if a student’s behavior IS depleting instructional time, the time it takes to implement a behavior plan for that student is usually well worth it.

Sometimes the best approach is to ask the teacher “What time of day—what hour, what class period, what subject—is THE ONE that you want to tackle first?”  I’d rather a teacher fully commit to a simple strategy for 30 minutes or 1 hour and do it well (consistently and with integrity) than to attempt the strategy or plan for the whole day and not maintain consistency and integrity of the plan.

So, when you want to change a student’s misbehavior, be ready.  You must first commit to changing YOUR behavior.