As many school principals can attest, much wisdom can be found in drawing on the expertise of an entire school team when it comes to better supporting our students, especially those who exhibit challenging behaviors. When we put our heads together and discuss plans that could work, we share past experiences, training, or helpful books. This often sheds light exactly where it’s needed. Such a conversation took place for me some months ago when I chatted with our school counselor about a certain student. Our counselor mentioned an author, Dr. Ross Greene, whose books had impacted her work with children in significant ways.
As a result, I am currently reading Lost at School and have come to appreciate the approach Greene advocates: solving problems collaboratively with the students themselves. His work is based on his years of experience as a child psychologist and parent. His presence on YouTube gives you a sense of his approach to this work, and one statement he made resonated with me immediately: in speaking to a workshop audience he once said, “Our own children turned out fairly well adjusted and healthy. Do you know what that makes me? Lucky!”
His emphasis is based on the core belief that kids will do well when they can. He holds this statement over against the more popular assumption that kids will do well if they want to. His contention is that no child is purposefully exhibiting challenging behavior. Rather, the behavior results from a lack of skills in the face of an unsolved problem.
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John Sawatzky is the elementary (K–6) campus principal at Calvin Christian School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.