Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

by Ross W. Greene Ph.D.
Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

by Ross W. Greene Ph.D.


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From the renowned authority on education and parenting, “an in-depth approach to aid parents and teachers to work together with behaviorally challenging students” (Publishers Weekly)—now revised and updated.

School discipline is broken. Too often, the kids who need our help the most are viewed as disrespectful, out of control, and beyond help, and are often the recipients of our most ineffective, most punitive interventions. These students—and their parents, teachers, and administrators—are frustrated and desperate for answers.

Dr. Ross W. Greene, author of the acclaimed book The Explosive Child, offers educators and parents a different framework for understanding challenging behavior. Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach helps adults focus on the true factors contributing to challenging classroom behaviors, empowering educators to address these factors and create helping relationships with their most at-risk kids.

This revised and updated edition of Lost at School contains the latest refinements to Dr. Greene’s CPS model, including enhanced methods for solving problems collaboratively, improving communication, and building relationships with kids.

Dr. Greene’s lively, compelling narrative includes:

• Tools to identify the problems and lagging skills causing challenging behavior
• Explicit guidance on how to radically improve interactions with challenging kids and reduce challenging episodes—along with many examples showing how it’s done
• Practical guidance for successful planning and collaboration among educators, parents, and kids

Backed by years of experience and research and written with a powerful sense of hope and achievable change, Lost at School gives teachers and parents the realistic strategies and information to impact the classroom experience of every challenging kid (and their classmates).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501101496
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 26,828
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dr. Ross W. Greene is the author of Raising Human Beings, Lost and Found, Lost at School, and The Explosive Child. Dr. Greene was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over twenty years, and is now founding director of the nonprofit organization Lives in the Balance (LivesintheBalance.org), through which he disseminates the model of care—now called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions—described in his books. Dr. Greene’s research has been funded by the US Department of Education, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Stanley Medical Research Institute, and the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. He speaks widely throughout the world.

Read an Excerpt

Lost at School
Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

By Ross W Greene
Copyright © 2008

Ross W Greene
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416572268


The wasted human potential is tragic. In so many schools, kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges are still poorly understood and treated in a way that is completely at odds with what is now known about how they came to be challenging in the first place. The frustration and desperation felt by teachers and parents is palpable. Many teachers continue to experience enormous stress related to classroom behavior problems and from dealing with parents, and do not receive the support they need to help their challenging students. Half of teachers leave the profession within their first four years, and kids with behavioral challenges and their parents are cited as one of the major reasons. Parents know there's trouble at school, know they're being blamed, feel their kids are being misunderstood and mistreated, but feel powerless to make things better and are discouraged and put off by their interactions with school personnel.

School discipline is broken. Not surprisingly, tightening the vise grip hasn't worked. A task force of the American Psychological Association has recently concluded that zero-tolerance policies, which were intended to reduce violence and behavior problems in our schools, have instead achieved the opposite effect. A review of tenyears of research found that these policies have not only failed to make schools safe or more effective in handling student behavior, but have actually increased behavior problems and dropout rates. Yet public elementary and secondary schools in the United States continue to dole out a whopping 110,000 expulsions and 3 million suspensions each year, along with countless tens of millions of detentions.

Behind the statistics, behind each expulsion, suspension, and detention, are human beings -- kids, teachers, parents -- doing the best they can with the tools they have. Dramatic changes are needed to help them. And my experience suggests that these changes won't be as painful and difficult as many fear. We cannot keep doing things the way we always have and continue losing kids on a scale that is truly astounding. This book is about doing things a different way.

I interact with hundreds of challenging kids every year. These kids would like nothing better than to be able to handle the social, emotional, and behavioral challenges being placed on them at school and in life, but they can't seem to pull it off. Many have been getting into trouble for so long that they've lost faith that any adult will ever know how to help them.

I work with hundreds of teachers every year, too. The vast majority care deeply about kids and devote massive amounts of time and energy to the kids they teach. But most readily acknowledge that understanding and helping challenging kids wasn't a major part of their education, and that they could use some serious help with some of these students and their parents. And most are so caught up in the daily demands of teaching and all the new initiatives imposed on them that they simply don't have time to reflect on how to better help the challenging kids in their classrooms.

I also work with hundreds of parents of challenging kids every year. Most are eager to work with school personnel in addressing their kids' challenges in an effective and compassionate way, but they aren't exactly sure how to make it happen.

Ten years ago I published a book called The Explosive Child that was primarily geared toward parents. Since then, the model I described in The Explosive Child -- called Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) -- has been implemented not only in thousands of households but also in dozens of inpatient psychiatric units, residential facilities, systems of juvenile detention, and general and special education schools. It's become clear that a book delineating how the CPS model is applied in schools is sorely needed.

Now you know why I wrote this book and for whom I wrote it. So let's talk a little about the how.

Helping kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges is not a mechanical exercise. Kids aren't robots, adults aren't robots, and helping them work together isn't robotic. The work is hard, messy, uncomfortable, and requires teamwork, patience, and tenacity, especially as the work also involves questioning conventional wisdom and practices. This book contains lots of material and examples to help you better understand challenging kids, how to implement the CPS model, and how to work collaboratively toward the common goal of helping these kids more effectively.

But there's also a running story about some challenging kids, their teachers, their parents, and the leaders of their school...and their messy, uncomfortable, collective attempts to make things better. The running story helps accomplish several goals. First, it moves the book rapidly from ideas to pragmatic reality. Second, it helps bring to life the challenges, pressures, stressors, doubts, obstacles, and anxieties of each constituency. Third, it provides readers with the actual words to use under various conditions. So often people say, "I understand the CPS model, but I need to know what it looks and sounds like in action!" or "I need to get a feel for the language of Collaborative Problem Solving." And they ask, "Is it truly realistic to think that an entire school could do this?" Toward this end, the story is abundant with real-life examples and dialogue.

All of the characters are based on educators, parents, and kids I've known and worked with, the actual challenges they tried to overcome, and how they did it. Some characters are composites, and names and details have been changed to protect identities. I could have presented the characters in the best possible light, but then they wouldn't have been very authentic. So the principal in the story isn't every principal, she's just the principal of the school in this story. Same deal for the kids, parents, teachers, and other characters. They aren't stereotypes, nor are they intended to be representative...they're just the characters I chose to help me demonstrate the difficulties and complexities inherent in transforming the disciplinary culture in a classroom and school.

I'm also not very specific about the type of school being depicted. It's clearly a public school, and a lot of the action takes place in the sixth grade, but I've been intentionally vague about its precise grade representation and the ethnicity and socioeconomic status of its population. While these details sometimes matter at the fringes, they don't have a dramatic impact on outcomes when people are using the CPS model. Although there are many females exhibiting challenging behavior at school, for ease of exposition I refer to challenging kids in this book primarily in the male gender. While the book is about kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, I use the terms kids with behavioral challenges and (though I try to be sensitive to people-first phraseology) challenging kids to encompass all three domains. Also, the work of other authors is referred to at various points throughout the text; these references are contained in a separate section at the end of this book.

This book is not about academics. There are plenty of initiatives in the field of education to make sure kids get what they need academically. This book is about the kids those initiatives inexplicably left behind.

This book does not bash or blame educators. Nor, for that matter, does it bash or blame challenging kids or their parents. It's about the need to make dramatic changes in a system that isn't working for teachers, parents, or challenging kids, and how to go about making those changes. Three massive shifts are required: (1) a dramatic improvement in understanding the factors that set the stage for challenging behavior in kids; (2) creating mechanisms for helping these kids that are predominantly proactive instead of reactive; and (3) creating processes so people can work on problems collaboratively.

Different people will take different things from this book. For some, the fact that challenging behavior can be traced back to lagging cognitive skills will be quite novel. For others, the limitations of consequences could be an eye-opener. For still others, the specific ingredients of Collaborative Problem Solving, and how these ingredients differ from (and are often more productive than) other ways of talking with and caring about challenging kids, will be enlightening. And for still others -- perhaps those who have become a bit jaded or cynical -- this book may offer a fresh perspective and new hope.

As always, to get the most out of what you're about to read, the primary prerequisites are an open mind and imagination of the possibilities.

Ross W. Greene

Boston, Massachusetts

Copyright © 2008 by Ross W. Greene


Excerpted from Lost at School by Ross W Greene
Copyright © 2008 by Ross W Greene. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 School of Hard Knocks 1

2 Kids Do Well If They Can 10

3 Lesson Plans 49

4 Let's Get It Started 74

5 Bumps in the Road 113

6 Filling in the Gaps 148

7 Meeting of the Minds 184

8 School of Thought 230

9 Lives in the Balance 280

Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems (ALSUP) 287

Sources 289

Books Cited and Other Recommended Reading 293

Acknowledgments 295

Index 297

Reading Group Guide

www.TheMainIdea.net © The Main Idea 2009. All rights reserved.

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

By Ross W. Greene (Scribner, 2008)

Book Group Questions from The Main Idea

The Story of Joey

1. What was your reaction to the incident involving Joey introduced in the first chapter? Who seems to be suffering in this narrative? Why?

Do you believe anyone was at fault for what happened? Do you think any of the staff members could have reacted differently to Joey?

The Basic Premise of the Book

2. What is the basic premise of the book – what does Dr. Greene believe to be the main problem facing kids with behavioral challenges? Why are they not behaving themselves according to Dr. Greene?

The Disciplinary System

3. What does the author say about the current state of our discipline system? How does it or doesn’t it serve students who behave well? What about students with behavioral challenges? Why or why not? Do you agree/disagree and why or why not? What do you think works and doesn’t work with your current disciplinary system?

Philosophy of Children

4. How is Dr. Greene’s philosophy of children (“Kids do well if they can”) different from the prevailing view (“Kids do well if they want to”)? How do these differing views affect the way adults approach behavioral issues? Does you school seem to favor the former or latter view? How do your school policies or practices reflect the prevailing view about children? What can you tell about the teacher’s (Mrs. Woods) philosophy and the other staff member’s philosophies about challenging kids based on their reactions to Joey’s incident?

Life Skills

5. Dr. Greene proposes a long list of life skills that kids with challenging behavior are lacking. What is your response to this list? Which items stand out or resonate for you and your experience with challenging students? Would you add any life skills to this list that seem to be missing? Are any of the items confusing?

Pills and Skills

6. Looking at the list of possible lagging skills. How does this compare to the diagnoses we are used to seeing in kids with challenging behavior (ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc.)? Why does the author prefer not to use these diagnoses? Can you explain the following quote from the book — “pills don’t teach skills.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems

7. Dr. Greene describes two culprits of children’s challenging behavior — lagging skills and unsolved problems. What is the difference between them? What does the author believe should be the first step in addressing challenging behavior and how can the ALSUP tool help?

Plan A

8. When teachers’ expectations are unmet, they often respond with Plan A. What exactly is this plan? Even if teachers have been successful with this plan, why does Dr. Greene say this approach still contains flaws? What has been your personal experience with Plan A – do you use it frequently? Do you consider yourself to use it “nicely”? How is Plan A different from simply communicating an expectation?

Plan B

9. What are some of the benefits of using Plan B to address problems with kids? What are the three steps involved in Plan B? How do these differ from approaches you’ve used (even casually) or read about? What do you anticipate might be some obstacles to doing the three steps involved in Plan B? What are the most important benefits of the Empathy step? What might make this step hard to implement?

Plan B and Joey

10. In the continuation of the Joey story from pp.92-108 we see some of Plan B taking place. What were the actions and words in the narrative that you think will contribute to making this a successful plan? Is there anything else you think the staff members should have said or done? What concerns do you have about the new plan?

Using Plan B with a Group

11. On p. 208 Mrs. Woods attempts to use Plan B with her entire class to address a class issue. If you want to use Plan B with a group, what groundwork needs to be in place to make sure it’s successful? What is your reaction to how Plan B plays out with her entire class? Do you think this would work with any age group? Would it need to be modified? If you were to ask the same open-ended question as Mrs. Woods does about the kids in her class not getting along, what types of issues do you imagine would surface in your class?

Concluding Thoughts

12. Overall, how did you feel about the resolution of Joey’s challenging behavior? Does it seem realistic? Does it seem translatable to other kids in other situations?

13. How can you imagine Collaborative Problem Solving/Plan B working in your school? What would have to happen for your school to implement this? What obstacles would have to be overcome? Which students can you think of right now who would benefit?

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