Opportunity Culture Voices: A Teacher’s Smart Advice for Serving Students’ Emotional Needs

by | January 24, 2017

Walking into Grant Middle School in 2014 was very intimidating. Gregory LawsonHow many people would willingly move from a successful middle school in Queens to Syracuse’s largest and notoriously poor-performing middle school? Probably not many, but I was seeking a challenge. And I found one.

 Grant had a reputation for failing students and ineffective staff. The reality on the ground couldn’t be further from the truth. Grant’s students did not perform well on state assessments, but they were talented, gifted and good children. And Grant’s staff had a deep, burning passion for them and their education. I walked into a building full of people who wanted to improve. With new leadership and a new multi-classroom leader cohort, we had the expertise to work toward a total building transformation.

As the multi-classroom leader (MCL) focusing on the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students, I have frank conversations with Grant’s staff regarding the functions of behaviors—that is, the “reason for” the behavior. I’m there to help teachers and administrators understand this and work together to figure out how we can satisfy the students’ needs within our learning environment.

–Syracuse, N.Y.,  Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Multi-Classroom Leader Gregory Lawson in A Teacher’s Smart Advice for Serving Students’ Emotional Needs

How does Gregory Lawson helps other teachers at Grant Middle School figure out how to address their students’ behavior? As he notes, he always starts with the function:

As an MCL, I observe students and teachers together in a classroom. I talk with the teacher, and together, we hypothesize the function of the behavior and that leads us to a plan.

Personalizing their instruction–beyond just academics, to look at students’ other needs–gives teachers a powerful tool, Lawson says. Read more about what does, and one example of a successful intervention, in the latest column in the Opportunity Culture series on Real Clear Education.

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