New Student Reflections - The Boys Town Education Model®
Kelly Sheppard - Teacher, WSWHE BOCES
down bookshelves, swearing and shutting down to accepting feedback and consequences, working with others and following instructions within the classroom. Some students have even worked on more intermediate and advanced skills like expressing feelings appropriately, following written instructions and seeking positive attention. Seeing J entering the classroom with major skill deficits really brought to light for me how much growth my other students truly had this year. At one point this year, they were all in the same position as J: having experienced major failure in school, even life, with negative relationships and truly struggling in all aspects of their life.
I say all this to express my sincere appreciation for our school-wide classroom management system the Boys Town Educational Model®. I've been in three schools prior to this one, and in all schools, I was charged with creating a comprehension level system to monitor, teach and shape student behavior. Doing this on my own and essentially in a "bubble" made any system I put in place at a distinct disadvantage. The Boys Town Educational Model® has been implemented school-wide from the principal to the teachers, teacher assistants, specials teachers and even support staff in the office. This level of consistency and support has made the use of the system feasible and impactful.
I planned to write about my love of Boys Town at a later date to truly reflect on how it has changed my approach to classroom management, but today just made my heart sing. We were able to complete some interactive community-building games, and I was able to devote 80% of my day to this new student because of all my other students have learned from Boys Town. They were able to use their skills to manage their day without the high level of support a new student like J needs.
I remember sitting in training this summer, and the trainer kept saying, "The magic is in the teaching." Well, I have to say I believe it. The system has a positive, proactive and systematic method of teaching and practicing social skills. Those things that many people think kids just "know," like how to follow instructions or accept [a] consequence or feedback, really need to be explicitly and frequently taught and reinforced. Who would have thought that naming the steps for following instructions and giving a reason why that skill is important would actually contribute to the development of the skill in students who have been labeled "hard to teach" or "explosive" or "defiant?!" Everything hinges on building positive relationships with kids. Of course, the Boys Town program has many different components, but just this idea of teaching and reinforcing social skills systematically and frequently in all aspects of the day has impacted my approach to teaching.
I made a comment to my students that we could have never played the "Getting to Know You Bingo" in the beginning of the school year. One student raised his hand and said, "Yeah, I would have thrown this paper and would have been rude when I asked the questions." A boy next to him said, "We wouldn't have been able to walk around the room and wait to interrupt. We would have been yelling and talking over each other." They went on and on in the reflection, and again I thought how proud of these kids I was.
I wish I took pictures of them seamlessly completing these tasks, but I was so caught up in the moment; all I could do was really marvel and watch them. I watched them interact respectfully. I watched them learn about each other and genuinely have fun. I watched them use the skills they worked so hard on practicing and using this year to build positive relationships with a new student while also building on the ones they've been making all year. It made all the hard days worth it.
Kelly Sheppard has been in education since 2006 and is currently working at Sanford Street Teaching and Learning Center, part of WSWHE BOCES School Support Services. WSWHE BOCES has been a Boys Town partner since 2005. This blog was reposted with Kelly’s permission from her blog, Educating Exceptional Learners.
It's days like to today that remind me how much I love teaching.
We had a new student, J, start today. J hadn't been in [the] classroom since late fall/early winter. So, for him, entering a highly structured classroom in May was a very daunting and nerve-racking situation. After J got through the initial nerves, he settled into the climate and routine of the class, and I credit my students for this. They were welcoming, kind, but respectful of his space. It made me smile seeing them initiate conversations, ask him questions and explain to him classroom routines.
When I think back to this same group of students in September, I am more in awe of how far they have come. These students have grown so much. We've moved from throwing desks, knocking