The “Principal” of Entitlement

Troll Doll Every day on the news, I hear of stories that make me think that some people have a skewed sense of entitlement.  It reminds me of a time when one of my principals almost helped to promote that concept.

I have been very fortunate that, for the most part, I have had some excellent principals.  One of my past principals is still alive at the age of 89 and I still talk and write to her several times a year.  She remains my personal mentor and I still think, “What-Would-Jane-Do in this situation?”  The way she interacts with people of all ages and the things that I have learned from her have been invaluable to me in helping to make me the person and teacher I am today.

I was privileged to work with a principal who memorized every student’s name in our school of about 1,000 students.  She was amazing to watch as she interacted with the student body, parents, and faculty.  I learned many lessons personally from her as well.  Teachers enthusiastically applied to work at her school since her reputation in our district was that she was a great person for whom to work.  At the age of 28, she was named “The Young Careerist” by the Business and Professional Women’s Organization.  She was also named Teacher-of-the-Year and Principal-of-the-Year for the state in which she worked.

I was honored to work for a principal who understood that family is the most important aspect of our lives and she worked very hard to make the staff feel like we were part of her family.  When Ron was going through his bone marrow transplant and then went through the process of dying, she never once questioned me when I would take time off, and in fact, would encourage me to take more time off.  She was there for me through a very difficult time of my life.  She taught me many lessons of compassion.

Every principal has taught me something.  Most of them have been good lessons; unfortunately, a few of them have been how not to behave.  And, on occasion, a principal will tell me that I have taught them something.   One such principal, Mr. Benson, gave me a Troll Doll pencil to give to my student, Cloie.  He knew that Cloie loved Troll Dolls.  I stated that I would tell her about it, show it to her, and give it to her as soon as she earned her way to the highest level in our No Bull 5-Tiered Level System.  I could tell he didn’t agree with me, but he let me go about my business.

I went to class, pulled Cloie out into the hallway and showed her the Troll Doll pencil.  She was so excited!!  She loved the way its hair went all over the place when she twirled it through her palms really fast.  I explained to her that it was from the principal, Mr. Benson, and that she could earn it by getting to the highest level in our system.  She was almost finished with the third highest level, so she only had to do one more level before she could earn the pencil (a little over 20 days).  She had been struggling to maintain the third level, but after she saw the pencil, her attitude changed.  She became more focused, her behavior improved, and she was soon promoted to the fourth highest level.  She would ask to look at the pencil often. I would let her look, but not hold it.  Sometimes I would twirl it to keep her excited and focused.

One day, Mr. Benson asked me why I hadn’t given the pencil to Cloie.  I could tell he was put out with me.  I explained that the Troll Doll pencil would mean much more to Cloie if she earned it.  He told me that he gave me the pencil not realizing I would withhold it from her and that he had originally expected me to give it to her immediately.  I told him I understood what he was saying, and I asked that he trust me on this point.  Even though he wasn’t happy with me, he agreed.

Finally, Cloie met all the criteria for her to be promoted to the highest level.  As soon as she did, I gave her the Troll Doll pencil and she was over the moon!  She told the principal that afternoon that she finally earned the Troll Doll pencil and how proud she was of herself.  She was jumping up and down, had a big smile on her face, was laughing, and kept saying how she was so proud of herself for earning it.  She thanked him several times.

Later that day, the principal sought me out and told me I was right.  He said that he learned that, in fact, that little Troll Doll pencil meant so much more because Cloie had earned it.  Mr. Benson went on to say that he would trust my judgment from now on and not question me.  He was truly amazed that Cloie was so excited over this small reward.  In truth, she was excited about her accomplishment.

When I remember this story, I find myself asking, “Are we giving too many things to kids instead of making them earn those things?”  I believe the answer to this question is YES.  I believe it is one of the reasons children and adults alike feel a sense of entitlement.  They have grown up being given everything.  Why not have kids earn rewards instead?  There are very few rights to things; everything else is a privilege (Laying the Groundwork: Rights and Privileges).  This is something to think about in our classrooms and in our homes: “What am I giving away that I could have my student/child earn instead?  What can I do to help instill a sense of pride in my student/child, instead of a sense of entitlement?”

See you next week, when I will be discussing this topic in more detail.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  Congratulations to this week’s winner of our “No Bull Teacher” polo shirt.  Check your email to see if you are the lucky winner!  There are two more weeks to go, so you have two more chances to win.


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Woman Shopping at Supermarket with TrolleyWhen I hear the stories of what is happening to families all across our country during our government’s ‘shut down’ I wonder, “Congress, where is your empathy?”  I find myself wondering this thought about other situations, too.  Henry David Thoreau said, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

Awhile back, I had an encounter with a guy named Ned that reminded me of this saying.  Ned was telling me of an exchange he had had with a woman in a grocery store who appeared to be in a big hurry or simply not paying attention to others.  Ned was on a main aisle of the store and this woman came rushing out of one of the side aisles and ran into his cart with her cart.  No damage was done and no one was hurt, but Ned was immediately angry at this woman and he proceeded to tell me of how he gave her a piece of his mind.  He yelled at her that she needed to watch where she was going and she didn’t need to be in that big of a hurry.  Soon the lady began to cry and Ned nailed her for that, too.  He told her he wasn’t “buying that crying crap” and that she needed to be more careful in the future.  She apologized, and while crying went on her way.  Feeling good about what he had accomplished, Ned continued on his way, too.  Another man standing there started to clap for him and told Ned that the woman had also ran into him, and that she deserved to be told off like that.

Dismayed at Ned’s behavior, I asked him if he had given any thought as to why the woman might have acted like that.  He shrugged his shoulders and stated that he didn’t care, that she didn’t need to be hurrying like that.  I suggested that perhaps she was having some trouble in her life at the moment and that she wasn’t able to pay as close attention as she might have otherwise.  I found his reply difficult to understand.  Laughing, he said that he is now of the age where he doesn’t care what other’s may be going through, and that if he thinks he needs to say something he will, even at the expense of the other person’s feelings.  I couldn’t help but wonder where was this man’s empathy?

This incident has stayed with me for several weeks for several reasons.  One reason is because I have often had a lot on my mind and probably not paid attention to what I was doing. I would be very upset (perhaps to tears) if another person spoke to me in such a cruel manner, then didn’t accept my apology, and laughed at my tears.

Secondly, the woman did apologize.  Give her the benefit of the doubt and move forward.  That day, Ned let his emotions be controlled by his circumstances instead of by his character (Independence Day, Independent Thinker).

Thirdly, most of us don’t go running into people on purpose with our grocery carts and then cry about it.  These were signs that something bigger than grocery shopping was going on in this woman’s life.  Yet, two different people didn’t pick up on it.  Maybe something big was going on in their lives as well.

Fourthly, I know Ned.  I know what kind of a person he is capable of being.  He has been an example of a kind, gentle, loving person.  Many people look up to him.  It is very troublesome to see this change of behavior in this man.  I have to ask myself, “What is going on in his life to cause him to act in this manner?”

Lastly, situations like this make me question myself and I can’t help but wonder about the times I have let my emotions be controlled by my circumstances instead of by my character.  I am reminded of the times I have knowingly acted inappropriately.  I am embarrassed and ashamed about it.  I am far from perfect!  I, too, need reminders to live a better, kinder life.   I have also come to realize that often, just having an audience makes us less kind.  I can’t help but wonder that if no one was around would Ned have reacted differently to this woman?

In my New Year’s Resolutions post, Reflect, Re-Evaluate, Resolve, I talked about promoting compassion and peace.  After spending time thinking about the situation with Ned, I realized it was a good time for me to look back at those resolutions and conduct a self-check.  2013 Resolutions:

  • To be kinder than necessary, especially to those with whom I find it difficult to get along.  If I can’t be kind, I can be quiet.  I resolve always to be respectful.
  • To be more tolerant of people whose opinions and choices with whom I disagree.  Being tolerant does not mean I condone these opinions and choices, but simply that I understand we each have the freedom to choose.
  • To always remember that violence does not beget peace and hate does not beget love.  I see mild forms of hatred and violence in everyday life.  It exists; however, I vow not to surrender myself to it.
  • To practice peace each day.  Gandhi taught that we must be the change we want to see in the world.  This includes in our neighborhood grocery store.

I recently saw a video on You Tube called “Empathy”  It is a gentle reminder to us that we don’t know what is really going on inside the lives of others.  I challenge all of us to live a more empathetic life, and “to look through each other’s eyes for an instant.”

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  Congratulations to this week’s winner of a FREE “No Bull Teacher” polo shirt.  Check your email to see if you are the lucky one!!  There are three more weeks of chances.


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A Positive Life or A Negative Life

Positive Life, Negative LifeBetween the violence in our own country and that abroad, both by hate groups and by single individuals, as well as the fact that our own government can’t seem to get along (I swear, I need to go to Washington and teach proper social and communication skills), I am reminded of the poem below that I had read a while ago and had forgotten about.   It reminds me of how our choices impact children (and adults)-positively and negatively.  Thanks to my friend Jayne for sending it to me.

 If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be sharp.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love and warmth.


When we teach and we live negatively, we receive negativity in return in the forms of criticism, hostility, ridicule, and shame.  Negativity can be very contagious.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “Misery loves company.”  There are many people in the world who love nothing better than to tell everyone their problems in the hopes that these people will validate those negative feelings.  We all have at least one person in our lives like that. In his book, Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week,

Joel Osteen reminds us that people have the right to be unhappy and you have the right to ignore them.  It is all about choices and control and power.

Recently, a friend of mine had to deal with someone who wanted to put his misery onto her.  My friend lives a positive life and understands that she is cause.  Therefore, she made a decision that she was not going to give into that negativity or to feel guilty and condemned.  She politely told her friend she was not going to participate in the negative decisions he was making.  She refused to give up her power and her control.  She fully understands that she is the cause.  She doesn’t wait for someone else to decide for her; she lives proactively.  Because she knows what she stands for, she is able to stand up to others in a very respectful manner, all the while keeping her own self-respect, confidence, and integrity intact.

Many people are under the impression that they are being treated rudely when they don’t get their way; when others won’t give into them.  This is a powerful form of manipulation people use by trying to make you feel guilty.  It is very disrespectful to you.  It can create a belief that to be respectful we have to give in to others or they won’t like us.  It can also create a feeling of shame.   However, neither is true.  It is completely possible to be very respectful, stand your ground, be just, and continue sometimes difficult friendships.  This helps to create a friendship/relationship where there is lovewarmth and/or respect.

Have I had people in my life who have chosen to be unhappy and couldn’t accept my honesty and the standing of my ground?  Yes, of course, I have.  We all have.  But, I have found this to be rare in my life. Most of the time, when you stand your ground people will accept it.  There have also been times where I have needed to make a decision to let the other person go, and continue down my own path of positivity so I could maintain my own power, control, self-respect and integrity.  I stated before; setting boundaries and being assertive (very different than being aggressive) can be done with dignity and respect to all parties.  Taking the high road is always the right road.  The low road is often more “scenic,” but it is never the right road.

We teach others how to treat us by the way in which we choose to live.  We teach and are taught to love or to hate (You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught to Hate).  We teach others to condemn, to fight and to ridicule by our acts of negativity.  The other side of that coin is that we teach others tolerance, justice, love, and warmth by our acts of positivity.

Do you live a life of positivity?  If so, congratulations!  You are contributing to our world in a productive, peaceful way.  If not, what can you do today to start down that path of change to bring more positive living to your life?

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  We are celebrating our first birthday!  To commemorate this event, we are giving away a free “No Bull Teacher” polo shirt every week this month. Congratulations to this week’s winner.  Check you email to see if it was you!

Thank you for supporting Ms. Brown the No Bull Teacher.


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Soaring to the Top

Soaring to the TopAs you recall from last week’s post (Swearing vs. Music), Ginger started to exhibit a remarkable change in her use of appropriate language instead of inappropriate language.  However, at the end of her second year with me, she still was not able to get past the two lowest levels on the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System.  In this system, each student is required to write a daily personal goal.  Every day for a year and a half, Ginger wrote, “To get to Director-in-Charge,” which on the surface sounds like a fine goal for an eighth grader to write; however, she never accomplished this goal, so something was missing.

I was raised in a religion that was keen on goal writing, my job requires that I write them, and I write goals all the time in my personal life.  But I knew I had failed Ginger, when, on the last day of school, she wrote the exact goal she had written all year long-a goal that was impossible for her to achieve that day.  I had tried several times throughout the year to get her to understand why she needed to write a different goal and that her goal needed to be more specific; but she wouldn’t budge, and in the end I couldn’t convince her otherwise.   I cried that afternoon and wrote a goal for myself that I would spend the summer developing lesson plans to better teach goal writing at the beginning of the next year.

That summer my brother-in-law and I were talking about this issue and he reminded me of the SMART goal writing program (SMART) by George T. Duran.  This program first appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review.  It is an excellent program and clearly defines what I already knew, but had become complacent about over time.  I looked up SMART and found a wealth of information.  I immediately started to develop my lesson plans.  Since 1981, many books have been written on SMART goal writing.  John Wade’s 45-page book, SMART Goals – The Secret of Achieving Anything You Want in Life, just came out and is a fantastic little resource for your classroom and your personal life.  And, right now, it’s FREE to download to your Kindle.

As September rolled around, I was ready!  I spent about two weeks very explicitly and deliberately teaching what SMART stands for and guiding students how to write a SMART goal.  Eventually, Ginger started to understand the difference between a SMART goal and a wish or desire.  Her wish went from, “Get to Director-in-Charge” to the goal of “I will follow the rules of the classroom in every period today.”  It was Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive.  Other times, her goal was, “I will use appropriate language in every class period today.”  Again, she followed the SMART program.  She soared to the top level (Director-in-Charge) and NEVER looked back.

Now, every day, I teach that “Successful people make SMART goals and work hard to achieve them.”  Ginger not only achieved her daily goals, but she was able to start achieving long-term goals as well.  At the semester break, she went into a general education eighth grade science class and got to participate in attending some of the dances held after school.

Her inappropriate language became almost non-existent (which was a HUGE improvement considering where it had been two years prior-That’s a Swear Word?) and, in fact, she would report when others were using it.  She stopped running everywhere and started to act more calmly.  As her social skills improved, her circle of friends increased.  She became one of the first kids chosen in PE games.  She was able to appropriately tell other people how she felt in certain social situations and teachers started to tell me how much they had noticed her improvements.  She earned and stayed on our highest level in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System all year long. I have had students come close to doing this, but, in all the years I have taught, have NEVER had anyone else achieve it for as long as Ginger did.

At the end of the year, we give out awards to deserving eighth graders and she received the “Most Improved Student” award.  When I recited her accomplishments during the presentation, the entire eighth grade broke out into loud cheers.  I got choked-up and teary-eyed.  The teachers clapped and kept asking each other if this was the same girl who used to run through the halls swearing up a storm.

Ginger has moved onto high school now and misses us, but is doing fine!  The No Bull 5-Tiered Level System, a well written Behavior Intervention Plan (Behavior Intervention Plan 2), explicit teaching of goal writing, along with parental support, has made all the difference for this young adult.

Due to her example, this year, I have two students who are trying to get to the highest level and stay there all year.

As teachers, we plan our lessons, make goals, work hard to achieve them, and still, we never completely know the extent of our influences over others.  However, when I see success in students like Ginger, I realize why I continue to get up each day and do it all over again.  See you next week.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S. Remember, we will be giving a “No Bull Teacher” polo away every week to a different subscriber during the month of October to celebrate our one year anniversary.

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Swearing vs. Music

Listening to the musicLast night was Open House for our school, and as I talked with the one parent who came, I couldn’t help but be reminded how parental support is huge in helping students succeed!  Ginger, from last week’s post, had the support of both parents and her grandmother, which along with the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System© helped her to eventually be successful in school.

We left off last week with Ginger being trained on how she could earn up to 14 minutes per day listening to music when she used appropriate language.  Her Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) was revised to work in conjunction with the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System© used in our classroom.  These strategies not only work in the classroom, but at home, too. They take careful planning and consistent execution of said plan.  The Proactive Strategies section of her BIP looked like this (pay particular attention to number six):

Proactive Strategies (Individualized Positive Behavior Change)-

1. Teachers will use verbal and non-verbal cues to re-direct Ginger when she is off-task or acting inappropriately.

2. Teachers will communicate to Ginger the daily expectations; this may be oral discussion or an assignment.

3. Ginger will receive positive verbal feedback for following adult directions, engaging appropriately with peers and adults, and not engaging in tantrums.

4. A good behavior note will be written at the end of the day on Ginger’s point sheet if she has earned it.

5. Ginger will be redirected to use calming techniques when feeling upset which may include: counting to 20, asking if she can color or read for a few minutes, or requesting to leave the area and go to another location (i.e. her TOR, special education facilitator), or go for a walk around campus with an escort.

6. Ginger will earn privileges as she shows appropriate behaviors. Many of these are built into the level system used in the Seriously Emotionally Challenged (SEC) program.  However, Ginger will also be able to earn time to listen to school appropriate music on her CD player.  If while on each level Ginger engages in

Team Member-3 or less incidents in each period of inappropriate language, she will earn up to 7 minutes of music

Dept Rep-3 or less incidents each period of inappropriate language, she will earn up to 9 minutes of music

Manager-2 or less incidents each period of inappropriate language, she will earn up to 10 minutes of music

Supervisor-2 or less incidents in a two period time frame of inappropriate language then she will earn 12.5 minutes of music

Director-In-Charge-2 or less incidents in a three period time frame of inappropriate language then she will earn 14 minutes of music

Ginger kept a chart at her desk each day to monitor her behavior.  I have tried, unsuccessfully, to figure out how to attach the actual charts to this post to show you how they work.  If you are interested in seeing the charts, please email me by clicking on “Contacts” above.  Each CD on the chart represents a different amount of time, and each CD increases in the time gained or lost as Ginger goes up the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System©.  The amount of times she can use inappropriate language (without a serious consequence) goes down as the duration of time goes up, while she ascends the level system.

Using this type of monitoring system makes it possible to shape new, appropriate behavior, have it occur for a longer duration of time, and see the frequency of inappropriate behavior drop significantly.  If she did not meet the criteria, then she would cross out one CD picture which would lower the amount of time she could listen to music at the end of the day.

The amount of time Ginger listened to music was directly related to how many times she engaged in appropriate language.  As she stopped using inappropriate language and replaced that behavior with appropriate language, she started to earn higher levels in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System©.  In her second year in our program, instead of staying in the lowest card (Team Member) more often than not and only on occasion earning her way to the next level of Dept. Rep., she more often than not earned the level of Dept. Rep. (the second to lowest level) and only occasionally was demoted to Team Member.   On average, we began to see her inappropriate language decrease from 27 times in a 55 minute period, to 13 times per day by the end of first quarter (she averaged 6 minutes of music at the end of the day as a Dept. Rep.), to 10 times per day by the end of second quarter, 8 times by the end of third quarter and 7 times per day by the end of the year (she averaged all 9 minutes of music at the end of the day as a Dept Rep).

As she improved her language, she also improved her ability to make and to keep friends.  She started to blossom and teachers started to tell me they could see a change in her behavior.  As a teacher, this is wonderful news to hear.

But, try as I might, I could never convince her that if she changed her daily personal goal from, “Get to Director-in-Charge,” (which is the highest level) to something that was more specific and easily attained she would be more successful.  So, when, on the last day of her second year she was on the lowest level (Team Member) and she wrote, “Get to Director-in-Charge,” I knew my work was not done.  I sat down at the end of the day and cried because I felt that I had failed her in some very important ways.

Come back next week to read about what I did the following year to help her be one of the most successful students in my program-EVER!

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  Ms. Brown, The No Bull Teacher will celebrate our one-year anniversary on the 17th of October.  Each week, throughout the month, we will draw for one subscriber to win a FREE No Bull Teacher polo shirt.  We will notify you through this blog if you are the winner.  Thanks for supporting Ms. Brown, The No Bull Teacher.

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“That’s a Swear Word?”

Woman With Swearing Talk BubbleWARNING: This post uses profanity

Last week it looked as if the United States of America was going to end up in a war with Syria.  This week, thanks to an off-handed remark made by John Kerry, it seems we may be able to avert the entire ordeal.  Things such as this happen in the classroom, too.  You look and look for the solution, sure there isn’t a win-win in sight, and then, out of nowhere it appears. This is what happened with Ginger.

I’m sure many of you have had the student in your classroom who doesn’t seem to know that certain words are inappropriate to say in a public setting. Actually, you probably know adults with that same issue.  In the past three years, Ginger has been in my class and for the first two years, used all kinds of colorful language.

In the 6th grade, she would say things like, “This is stupid.  I’m not doing this shit,” when she didn’t like an assignment.  She would often call me stupid, or worse.  She would cuss out other students using lots of inappropriate language.  When she would lose pay on her Time Card in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System© used in our classroom, she would swear even more, exclaiming, “Yeah, right, shit is in-ap-pro-pri-ate to say!  That’s bullshit!  You are so stupid, Ms. Brown.”  These tirades often went on for several minutes.  She would always tell me that her dad used that language at home and nothing was wrong with it.  When she was finished, I would dock her pay and explain that while her father may have used that language at home, it was not appropriate to use in a public setting.  Then, she often would say, “What’s the point?” in a very disrespectful tone of voice.

She refused to accept constructive criticism from authority figures.  She continued to tell adults that they were dumb or stupid.  She would flip other students off, make an “L” with her hand and put it by her face, saying “Loser” to the other students.  Yet, she would get extremely angry when they would do it back to her.  She did not understand that she was teaching others how to treat her with her disrespectful actions.  After Ron, my sweetheart died, she told me, “I’m glad your fiancé died this summer because you deserve it. You’re such a fucking bitch.”  She didn’t think anything was wrong with this sort of statement; later, when we talked about it, she said if anyone would have said that to her she would have hit them and would have probably broken something.  However, she continued to maintain that it was perfectly fine for her to say things of this nature to me or to anyone else who met with her disapproval.

The baseline data collected over a period of three weeks indicated that she used inappropriate language on average 27 times in a 55 minute period.  As the first year went by, I couldn’t seem to figure out what would be reinforcing enough to get Ginger to change her behavior.  We continued with the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System© with some success, but I never felt like I had really zeroed in on the best solution to the problem.

Communicating with her mother brought out the admission that her father, in fact, did use that language at home.  I told her mother I understood, but that we needed to teach Ginger that a public setting was not the appropriate place to use that sort of language.  Note, I never told Ginger to not swear or use inappropriate language; I told her not to use it in a public setting.

As a result of Ginger’s choices, she remained on the two lowest levels in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System©, with the lowest level being the most common, for the remainder of the year. I felt like a failure. After searching for most of the school year and coming up with very little that Ginger found reinforcing enough to create a change in her behavior, it finally dawned on me that she tapped on the desk almost as much as she used inappropriate language.  I had always considered this behavior to be annoying, but I didn’t realize it was guiding me to the solution all along.  When I asked why she tapped on the desk all the time, I discovered she LOVED music-specifically, Pink Floyd!  My wheels started to turn at a fast rate.  That afternoon, I called her mother and discussed sending Ginger to school with a school-appropriate CD and player.  I would provide the batteries.  That night, I worked late developing a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).  Ginger showed up with a CD and player the next week and we went to work training her about how she could earn time at the end of each day to listen to music.

She was able to earn up to 14 minutes per day of music time, depending on the level she was currently on in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System©.  This new change in her BIP helped Ginger make better choices and we started to see a significant change in her behavior.

Come back next week and see what Ginger’s BIP looked like to help her be successful.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

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Create an Amazing Year

back to schoolHere we are back at the beginning of a new school year and I wanted to suggest five past posts I have written that many have found helpful in setting up their classrooms:

  • In The Hope Strategy, I discuss the importance of having a system in place to provide a consistent, structured routine.
  • One of my favorite lessons to teach (and I teach it every year), is found in the post Laying the Groundwork-Rights and Privileges, where I explain how I teach the difference between Rights and Privileges and then I refer to this lesson with my students the rest of the year (sometimes daily). 
  • To inspire my students and help them to understand and buy into the Five-Tiered No Bull System™, I like to tell them the story of my uncle Max (From Busboy to Vice President) and how he was so successful by exhibiting excellent work habits.  It is an inspiring story for young minds. 
  • In the Five-Tiered No Bull System™, every student every day, is required to write a personal goal.  I teach this valuable life lesson by using a program called SMART, and I love how it explicitly explains goal writing
  • The last post I highly recommend you read, or re-read, It’s About Time, tells various ways to use timers in your classroom to help manage everything from how long to work on a task to personal student behavior.

There is so much to be done in a classroom this time every year that I am going to stop writing so you can concentrate on reading these past posts and get back to setting things up in your rooms.  Because I so strongly believe we are in charge of ourselves, I am not going to say “Good Luck this school year.”  Luck has nothing to do with it.  Careful planning and strategizing has everything to do with it.  Instead, I am going to say, “Go forth and create an amazing year.  You are in charge!”

It is wonderful to be back to posting each week.  So, come back next week and read about Ginger and how SMART goal-writing and an explicit Behavior Intervention Plan helped her to be successful (this is a different behavior plan than I posted last spring).

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and make it a peace-filled week,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  If you are interested in leaving comments you can “Register” your name and email address.  If you are interested in receiving an automatic email with a link every time I post you can subscribe under “Email Sign-up”.  Both are FREE!


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I Make a Difference

money in the handsWell, I am seeing many Back-to-School sale signs up in the stores, so I know it is almost time to head back to school where I will sharpen pencils, decorate my room, and start writing lesson plans.  I love my summer vacation, but I love going back to school, too.  I love the feeling I get when, on the first morning back on my contract, the cheerleaders are there to whoop and holler when I walk onto campus.  I love reconnecting with my colleagues.  I love walking into my room looking at the sparkling-clean whiteboard, and putting all the desks back where they belong.  I love the first day when my kids return to my class and another year begins.

But as I stated before, I love summer.  And, it has been a phenomenal summer!  I have had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with my high school sweetheart of 33 years ago.  One of the many things we did was go backpacking together in the High Uintah Mountains of Utah.  I was able to spend priceless moments with my family and friends, where we have cried, giggled and laughed out loud.  I celebrated my “officially” turning 50 the entire month of July.  I flew to Seattle where I introduced my high school sweetheart to my friends and family up there.  By the way, he passed the “Introductory Tour” with flying colors.  We hung sheet-rock and adjustable shelves in my garage and built a cabinet in there, too.  Then, for a couple of hours every day I have been going through EVERY box in the garage.  My word, I have collected a lot of very unimportant stuff over time, and some very cool stuff, too.  And at times, I have thought about the kids in my classroom.

I’m sure like me, if you are a teacher you often hear things like, “it must be rough being a teacher, you get three months off in the summer.”  And like me you probably think, “yes, and I have earned them!”  Did you know that most teachers put more hours into their jobs in the nine months they work than most other people put into their jobs over twelve months?  For example, one of the projects I worked on this past year I put in over 200 volunteer hours.  And that was just one project!  That doesn’t include all the time I spent writing IEPs, correcting papers, writing lesson plans, and a whole host of other things I do after my contract time.  And, I am NOT the exception to the rule.  I know many teachers who put in hours of overtime to make a difference in the lives of their students.

This last line reminds me of one of my favorite stories.  I’m sure you have heard it, but it is so on-target that I want to print it here again to remind us our jobs are important.  I don’t know where it comes from, so I don’t know who to give credit to.


The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.  One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.

He argued, ‘What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?’

He reminded the other dinner guests what ‘they’ say about teachers: ‘Those who can, do.  Those who can’t, teach.”

To emphasize his point he said to another guest; “You’re a teacher, Bonnie.  Be honest.  What to you make?

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, ‘You want to know what I make?’

(She paused for a second, and then began…)

‘Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.  I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.  I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for 5 minutes without an I-Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make?’  She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.  ‘I make kids wonder.  I make kids question. I make them apologize and mean it.  I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.  I teach them to write and then I make them write.  Keyboarding isn’t everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.  I make them use their God-given brain, not a man-made calculator.  I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.  I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.  I make my students stand, placing their hand over their hearts to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America.

I make them understand that if they use the gifts they have been given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.’

Bonnie paused one last time and then she continued.

‘Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant…You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped, he went silent.


Enjoy the last few weeks of summer before you go back into the classroom to MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  You have earned them!

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful and make it a peace-filled last few weeks,

Ms. Brown

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Independence Day, Independent Thinker

ABWith tomorrow being Independence Day, and July 1st, having been my fiftieth birthday, I can’t help but reflect how fortunate I am to live in a country where I get to participate in and enjoy the freedoms given to me as a citizen of said country. Not only am I fortunate, I am privileged to have many options as well by living in this country: I enjoy the privileges of owning and driving my own car, spending time with my family and my friends, being able to get up in the morning and exercise, being able to read any kind of material I want to, going to a water park all day and laughing and giggling the whole time, and doing all of these things without fear of retribution from my government. Even in the midst of all of the government intrusions, we are still fortunate and privileged to live in this country.

I also feel very privileged to live the life I live: one where I am able to care for myself independently and one where I am free to be an independent thinker.  Joel Osteen said in his book, Every Day a Friday: How to Be Happier 7 Days a Week, that your “emotions will be either controlled by your circumstances or by your character.”  This is a very powerful and very true statement.  I fully believe we create our own happinesses in life; we are what we think. If we think miserable thoughts, we will be miserable.  If we think positive and happy thoughts, we will be positive and happy (Teaching a Positive Attitude).  While we cannot always control what happens to us, we can always control how we will react to what happens to us.  We are in charge of ourselves!!  During the months while Ron was dying, I had some very important decisions to make.  Some of those decisions were related to his medical situation, some to his financial situation, and some to his and my emotional situations.  I decided early on that I would do my best to maintain a positive attitude and make every day count for us.  I had to decide: do I sit back and play the victim, or can I be proactive and figure out how to be happy (at times faking it) in a fatal situation?  Because I so strongly believe that I am in charge of me, I chose to be happy.  For me, life is about the good times.  Thinking for ourselves and not letting the thoughts of others infiltrate our minds is powerful and can set us on the path of emotional freedom.

I recently started dating my high school sweetheart from 34 years ago.  Having been widowed almost two years ago, I didn’t know if love was going to be able to happen again.  However, knowing that I am in control of myself, being open emotionally to what may be out there, and sending out positive energy has honored me with an amazing man.  We recently went on a backpacking trip in the High Uintah Mountains in Utah at 10700 feet elevation (the last time I went on a backpacking trip, I was 17, and the elevation wasn’t nearly that high).  This trip, I carried a pack of thirty pounds (I only weigh 113 pounds), fell four times while bush-whacking our way through a non-trail, banged, bruised, and bloodied up my legs, got altitude sickness for about fifteen hours, and had a blast (see the inserted photos-first picture is of me at 10700 feet elevation touching snow, and the second picture is of me during the hike)!!  We were in a beautiful part of the country, with no one else around for about fifteen miles, and we had each other.  During the day, we relaxed and visited; the temperature was about 80 degrees, and I read while he fished.  At night, we sat around the campfire and talked with no interruptions.  The moon was full, bright, and beautiful.  By morning, it got down to around 36-40 degrees.   Some people would have been miserable, but I understand we create our own happiness.  Eventually, bruises and altitude sickness go away…but, those memories will stay with me for the rest of my life, providing me with great stories to tell.

Not only are we fortunate to live in this beautiful country (even though at times we forget it), we are also privileged to live in it.  We are not only fortunate to have our own minds in which to think on our own, but it is our privilege to use our minds.  We show honor to ourselves when we think for ourselves.  How will you show honor to your own independence?  Will you let your circumstances influence your emotions, or will you choose your character?

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled Independence Day,

Ms. Brown

P.S.  I’ll write again on August 7th.


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Behavior Intervention Plan-Part Three

Student at workThis is the last week of school for me until Aug 21st.  I always look forward to summer, but I always miss my students.  I get teary-eyed when I say good-bye to them on the last day of school. There is much to reflect upon in this school year and to be proud of what has been accomplished.  I’m proud of Otis for maintaining the highest level on the 5-Tiered No Bull System© for 140 days.  I have never had anyone maintain this level for this long in all the years I have taught (I’ll write about him and his Behavior Intervention Plan next school year).  I’m proud of Cloie for being able to maintain appropriate language some of the time each day.  I am excited for Ginger, who, by learning and applying new skills of anger management, will be leaving special education entirely as she goes onto high school.  And, I am thrilled for Henry with all his accomplishments this year.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for him this next year.  I predict we will see amazing things from this young man.

Speaking of Henry, let’s finish up his Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).  Last week, in Behavior Intervention Plan-Part Two, I finished with Proactive Strategies (Individualized Positive Behavior Change).  Proactive strategies are what the adults who are involved with the student do daily to help the student be successful.  It’s sort of like what preventative medicine does for our health.

Let’s move onto the Positive Strategies to Modify the Environment part of the BIP.  These strategies are used as Henry needs them.

Step 5: Positive Strategies to Modify the Environment: 1. All teachers will be aware of the replacement behaviors and encourage Henry when he displays those behaviors. 2. Henry will be given increased verbal praise when he is acting appropriately and it will be clearly stated to him what the appropriate behavior was that he demonstrated. 3. When in a stressful situation, Henry will appropriately communicate that he needs to engage in his strategies that clam him down to avoid conflict. 4. Henry may request to leave an area and go to another location (i.e. his Teacher of Record-TOR) for a ‘cool down’. 5. Henry will be provided with an alternative for working with others when he cannot handle the interaction with other students or teachers appropriately.

The next step is Reactive Strategies (where we include crisis management strategies, if needed).  This is what these strategies look like for Henry.

Step 6: Reactive Strategies: 1. Redirect Henry with verbal and/or visual cues when behaviors are inappropriate (may include points lost on point sheet). 2. Discuss expected behavioral consequences. 3. Praise and give points on point sheet when he follows the expectations of the teacher. 4. Allow Henry to have time out of the room in order to regroup, allowing him the opportunity to share his frustration or anger with a neutral party. 5. Henry will be provided the opportunity to work farther away from other students when he is unable to focus or is agitated, frustrated or angry, or when he exhibits “in other people’s business” behaviors.

 De-escalating steps: 1. Teacher will calmly speak to Henry about what he needs to do differently to change his behavior. 2. Teacher will give/take points from point sheet reminding Henry of target behavior(s) 3. Henry may need to be removed from the room and reminded of appropriate ways to behave and interact with others (eg; the hallway, the SEIF office, TOR’s room). 4. Role-play will be used to help Henry differentiate appropriate vs. inappropriate situations. 5. Henry will alert teacher if he needs an alternative area of the room to do his work.

For the Progress Monitoring section, I used to write one sentence and think that was good enough.  However, we really need to be much more specific if we wish to truly help students learn to modify their behaviors.

Step 7: Progress Monitoring Data Collected that Determines Effectiveness: 1. Daily point sheets from the 5-Tiered No Bull Level System© indicating academic and socially appropriate behavior toward others will be sent home every day for parent signature. 2. Analyze data weekly. 3. Henry will be promoted up the level system when he has earned it by exhibiting appropriate behaviors. He will be demoted down the level system when he has earned it by exhibiting inappropriate behaviors. 4. TOR will maintain data and notify Henry, parents, his other teachers, and any school administration when necessary.

And finally, the last step, Intervention Outcome Process.  This section needs to have the beginning date and how long the BIP is expected to be enforced.  It can be less time than one year; however, it cannot be more than a year.

Step 8: Intervention Outcome Process: This BIP will begin on March 10, 2013, and continue throughout Henry’s annual IEP; being reviewed at the next annual IEP. This BIP will be reviewed sooner if Henry’s behavior warrants it.

 So, that’s it, a behavior intervention plan with a lot of specifics in it.  The key is collecting the initial data.  Once you have done that, it is much easier to write a behavior plan that will be specific to the needs of the student which, in the end, will be much more likely to yield positive behavioral changes.

I’m “off” for the summer and have a workbook to work on.  I’ll post again on July 3rd.  NOTE: Several teachers use their school email address to receive my blog posts, so if you are leaving your district (and even if you are not), you may want to consider switching your school email address to your personal email address so you can continue to receive my posts.  Thanks to everyone for your support.  I appreciate you.

Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled summer,

Ms. Brown


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