Why I like and don’t like PBIS

Let’s begin with the positive. PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) provides a framework that can help in organizing the way adults function and assist children. Many people across the nation and around the world use PBIS and report the benefits. The founders, George Sugai and Rob Horner, articulate the vision and are both consummate presenters. There are many others who understand PBIS’ complexities and teach the strategies and/or apply them to schools.

What I don’t like about PBIS is its complexity and that it is so cerebral, academic, quantitative that it tends to put people in the left side of their brain. It lacks soul and inspiration. It is cumbersome to explain and do. It does not have a simple articulated vision like say Resiliency and Prevention. It does not appeal to one’s heart or creativity.

It uses educatese words like rubric and self-efficacy. Rubric is virtually impossible to define or conceptualize unless you have used it and self-efficacy is a stilted way of saying belief in oneself. PBIS calls these concepts rules. Be safe, Be respectful, and Be responsible are abstract concepts, not rules. They are concepts not intelligible to children in the concrete stage of development, say, third grade and younger. And they require unpacking, matrixing, which is cumbersome. I prefer rules that are behavioral, like, “Keep hands, feet and objects to yourself.”

The adults I am really interested in, and the ones that need attention and support are those who are with children all day, when they are rested and well, and when they are stressed and tired. These are the key people, the ones who influence children for better or worse, richer or poorer. Children who do not succeed at school, do not succeed at life. Our best prepared and most emotionally intelligent people managers are the ones who need to teach and monitor children. And we need a way to respond to and correct those who are doing damage. Honest feedback openly received is one hallmark of a healthy learning team.

Teams in schools are the single most important lever we have for transforming education. A team is a learning organism that can do anything it chooses. Teams deliver benefits, support participants and those they serve, make the work easier and more fun. Teams are fluid and function according to resources and needs. Teams regenerate.

PBIS does not address teams directly. It focuses on the work and neglects the human aspect. THE POWER OF TEAMS will be available soon for you to read and use. PBIS can still be implemented but the power is in the people functioning as a team of aligned individuals. Now that is the dynamic needed to make education productive, progressive and fun. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Why I like and don’t like PBIS

  1. Teams may be wonderful and transformative when operating effectively within a school, but until parents become that “team” for their own children we will continue to have many problems trying to teach in addition to raising their children. Having fed, clothed, diciplined, loved, cleaned, and nurtured many children, little time is left to teach.

    • I agree that having parents on the team helps tremendously, but too often that doesn’t happen. Our fellow teachers who are on the team help us to do more with less. What I have written in THE POWER OF TEAMS are the rules and behavior that works, from entry level to fully functioning team members.
      I know it is frustrating. A team of our own helps us cope with the frustration and share the work including creative problem solving.
      Does that make sense?