From the Publisher
"No one in America has thought more deeply about the problems of disruptive children in school than Ross Greene. In his brilliant new book, he goes inside the minds of children and school personnel to explain why old-fashioned school discipline and Zero Tolerance policies have failed. Then he offers original and tested new strategies for working with the most behaviorally challenging children. Every teacher and administrator who has ever felt that traditional discipline isn't working should read Lost in School." Dr. Michael Thompson, school consultant, co-author, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys and author, Best Friends/Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social World of Children
"We cannot ignore difficult student behaviors any longer. Dr. Greene's book is a timely contribution to the literature on how schools must support ALL students, and his approach fits well with Response to Intervention (RTI)." Rachel Brown-Chidsey, Ph.D., NCSP Associate Professor, School Psychology Program, University of Southern Maine, coauthor, Response to Intervention: Principles and Strategies for Effective Practice
"In his new and dynamic book Dr. Ross Greene presents an innovative and field-tested approach to understanding and guiding troubled students. He encourages and challenges the reader to recognize that the child HAS a problem as opposed to the widely-held view that the child IS a problem. Dr. Greene gives a voice to a group of children who are often misunderstood and miseducated. He provides invaluable information and insights that will enable you to give challenging kids the care that they need and deserve. Those kids and the adults who care for them are in Dr. Greene's debt." Richard D. Lavoie, M.A., M.Ed., author, It's So Much Work To Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success and The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-out Kid
"Dr. Greene removes all doubt: Even with challenging kids, rewards and punitive 'consequences' can (and should) be replaced with collaborative problem-solving. Lost at School is a detailed and immensely practical guide whose approach makes much more sense than behavior management plans and other tactics of control. It's hard to imagine any educators, counselors, or parents who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. And their kids will benefit even more." Alfie Kohn, author of Beyond Discipline and Punished by Rewards
"A positive and practical approach for teachers who want to work to redemptively with kids whose classroom behavior is an impediment to academic and social success." Carol Ann Tomlinson, Ed.D., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Psychiatrist and Harvard professor Greene follows up The Explosive Child with an in-depth approach to aid parents and teachers to work together with behaviorally challenging students. Greene's philosophy is driven by the recognition that "kids who haven't responded to natural consequences don't need more consequences, they need adults who are knowledgeable about how challenging kids come to be challenging." Greene's "Plan B" system, which is fully and clearly explained in the course of the book, emphasizes identifying challenging behaviors-acting out, hitting, swearing, poor performance in class-and then working with students to find actual, practical ways to avoid them. Helpfully, Greene uses a fictional school for examples, devoting several pages to illustrative anecdotes in each chapter, greatly increasing the material's accessibility. Greene's technique is not fail-proof, principally because it requires the good will and hard work of all participants; a section on implementing Plan B in the face of real disagreement or apathy would have been helpful. However, Plan B has all the qualities of accessibility, logic and compassion to make it a solid strategy for parents and educators.
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Read an Excerpt
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 ten years 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
Copyright © 2008 by Ross W. Greene