You Can’t Raise Positive People With Negative Feedback

You Can’t Raise Positive People With Negative Feedback

5 Ways “Flip the Switch” In Your Classroom:
How to go from Fuss Fest to Less Stress
By: Amie Dean

“You can’t raise positive people with negative feedback.” Boom.

I remember sitting in a conference session as a young teacher with only a few years
experience. I was listening to a very experienced gentleman leading the session about
classroom discipline. I had just moved to Atlanta and was teaching in what was proving to
be a challenging environment for me – and I was failing miserably. I’d always thought of
myself as a very positive person, and I thought I was a positive teacher. I smiled and
laughed with my students, I truly got to know them, and I gave personal, positive feedback
anytime I could. This particular year, I was struggling. I had a very challenging group of 8th
graders, all boys, who hated to read, and I was teaching them reading and language arts for
2 hours at the end of their middle school day. Let’s just say that a good time was NOT had
by all!

Because of the struggles, I asked a supervisor to come in and observe me teaching this
particular class to give feedback and hopefully strategies to help. I thought she was going to
come in and tell me how horrible the behavior was and feel sorry for me for all the
difficulties I faced. At the end of the observation, she asked me if she could be honest with
me. I, of course, said yes, that is why I invited you. She said, “Amie, you didn’t smile one
time in 2 hours.” I looked at her in a very confused way and asked, “Did you see anything to
smile about?” I was immediately defensive and disappointed. Why was she commenting on
my behavior or MY face when I asked her to come in and look at the students’ behavior?
Their behavior had been over the top and very negative almost the entire time she was in
the room. Next she said, “What I mean is you look miserable.”
I said, “I am miserable.”
“Amie, she said, “you look like you hate your job.”
I said, “I think I do.”

It was such an eye-opening and embarrassing moment for me that someone would visit my
classroom and leave thinking I hated my job. I was upset for days and really hard on myself.
Surprisingly, I had an opportunity to sign up for a big education conference a few weeks
later, and I attended a breakout session focused on classroom discipline. The gentleman
teaching it was Dr. Terry Alderman, author of Discipline A Total Approach. I thought it was
perfect – I needed this! When Dr. Alderman opened with, “You can’t raise positive people
with negative feedback,” it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Yes, my students’ behavior was very difficult, but I had only been seeing or addressing the
difficult behaviors. I was not making any attempts to notice when things were going well. I
was so focused on what was wrong that I wasn’t able to see what was right. I walked away
that day with an arsenal of new ideas to turn things around in my classroom.

I immediately began to track positive behaviors and make note of it. My new goal became to
have at least two positive comments for every one corrective statement that I made. It
wasn’t that I was letting negative behaviors go or not addressing them, I just made sure that
I spent the at least the same amount of time and verbal energy on positive behaviors as

I put specific strategies in place to make myself accountable. For example, I moved paper
clips from one pocket to the other to track positive comments. Later, I used an index card
and made small tears on the long side for every positive comment and made tears on the
short side for any corrective statements. I saw a difference in the boys’ behavior within
days. More importantly, I started to feel better about this particular class as I forced myself
to find what was working. There were always some good things going on, but I was so
overwhelmed by how “bad” everything was, that I wasn’t able to see it. I had finally found a
way to “Flip the Switch.”

5 simple ways to Flip the Switch:
[ 1 ] Write down your WHY on an index card. Post it in several places around your
room. Read it every day – every hour if you must! You came into this job with a
passion – with a desire to have an impact on your students’ lives. Hold on to that
passion. It will be your fuel when the tank is empty.
[ 2 ] Make an effort, seriously, a tangible effort, to make at least 2x as many positive
comments in your classroom than you do corrective statements. None of us spent
years in school to get a degree in nagging. Don’t let your day devolve into a fuss
fest. Only YOU can control what comes out of your mouth – own it.
[ 3 ] Take the time to write 2 positive post it notes to 2 different students each day until
every student has received one note. Of all the strategies I’ve tried over the years,
this one gave me the biggest bang for my buck! Examples include:
Dear Richard, You have a great sense of humor. You make people laugh.
Dear Jasmine, You have strong opinions. I admire your confidence.
Sign each note with your name. Remember, NO suggestions or corrections on the
positive post it!
[ 4 ] Ask an administrator, another teacher, the media center specialist to stop in and
share a compliment you gave your students while you were away from them. They
can pop in and say, “I heard you guys have really improved your efforts on being
respectful.” Mrs. Dean was bragging about you. Sit back and enjoy the smiles.
[ 5 ] ONE GOOD THING – Place a jar or container on your desk, and invite students to
write one good thing on a slip of paper anytime. You should do it as well! Randomly
pull 2 or 3 a few times a week and share with the class. Not only are you helping
change your mindset about the day, the week, or the class, but you are also
coaching your students on how to do the same. As mentors, we have the
opportunity to coach our kids through our words, responses, and actions. If we
model how to “Flip the Switch” when things are going poorly or a relationship has
taken a negative turn, they will see that it is possible.

Behind every successful confident student, you will find an adult who believed in them.
What is the impact of the words you are choosing to use with your students? Do you need
to flip the switch? If yes, you can do this. Your students deserve it.

Amie Dean, M.Ed, NBCT has been a teacher and behavior interventionist for 27 years. She
is the founder of Educational Strategies Unlimited Consulting Firm and
Amie is the author of two children’s books Your Happy Heart; How Helping Others Helps
You, Too and There’s No Dream Too Tall which focus on helping children discover their
gifts, regulate their emotions, and find joy through kindness and helping others.

Connect with Amie at
Twitter @behaviorqueen
Insta @amiedeanbehaviorqueen

MTSS | Beyond the Textbook

MTSS | Beyond the Textbook

By: Janna Sells

Are you sick of feeling the MTSS implementation burnout?  Has MTSS become a four letter word where you serve? Tired of the theory not matching practice?  We were too.  Welcome to our roadshow.  A group of educators who were charged with the job of making MTSS work to close gaps and raise student achievement.  In our journey we’ve uncovered the tools needed to build an effective 3 Tiered Model. Let us start off by first saying, it was not easy.  We made tons of mistakes, but we eventually got it right. We continued and will continue to lean into our own learning and improve what we know to be faithful and true about implementing this highly effective total school improvement model.  

5 Critical Components of MTSS 

There are 5 critical components, or pillars, that have to be carefully and thoughtfully crafted prior to implementation of MTSS.  Without these 5 essential inputs, an MTSS model is simply impossible.

1) It all begins with LEADERSHIP |
Leadership knowledge and reinforcement are the driving force behind a strong implementation model.  What does that mean?  

  • Leaders equip themselves with the knowledge they need to lead teachers through implementation  
  • Leaders LEAD MTSS PLCs – know the data, lead the discussion, and equip teachers 
  • Leaders help align the arrows between the work teachers are doing in PLCs to their School Improvement Plan  
  • Leaders are active problem-solvers and strong advocates who support teachers so they may best serve students

2) Clear and consistent COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION |
More times than we are excited to admit, we’ve coached and supported sites with the best implementation intentions, but they failed because of the lack of clear communication.  The same factor for the leading cause of divorce in the United States is killing MTSS implementation across our country. Why do we continue to ignore the impact of good communication? Likely, because it is an art.  Knowing when and how to say the right things can make or break the culture around implementation. It’s equally important that you bring teacher leaders in with you as you build your MTSS model. Their boots on the ground feedback is immeasurable and will help you stay ahead of potential threats.

3) Capacity and Infrastructure build sustainability
Invest in your people.  Not programs. Work to build capacity in ALL of your staff to create a model that lasts.

  • Invest and equip all the people in your building to help them see the strong role they play in the MTSS model.  
  • It’s an all hands on deck approach.  Every person in your building should see how their role impacts and aligns the arrows towards total school improvement.

4) Data-based problem-solving | 
We would never expect a doctor to begin writing a treatment plan for an ill patient without data based indicators suggesting the treatment is exactly what the patient needs.  We would also expect that the doctor has a strong line of research to support the treatment plan he or she chooses to help the patient recover. The same is true for educators.  To teach without using a data-based, problem solving protocol is malpractice. 

5) Data Evaluation drives continuous improvement | 
Life is a constant cycle of continuous improvement.  We evaluate success in many different measurements, but nonetheless, we drive towards improvement.  MTSS implementation is no different. 

  • There are many tactical tools to measure whether or not your implementation model is having a positive, negative, or neutral impact on students’ growth and achievement.  
  • It’s important that you triangulate your implementation data to get a true measure of impact.  
  • You must listen to your current indicators and humbly reflect and improve on them until your desired implementation is achieved.  
  • Remember, this a marathon, not a sprint.  Be present. Be strategic. Be consistent. 

A Three-Tiered Approach to Academics, Behavior, and Social Emotional Supports

i-LEADR, Inc. coaches a three-part, three-tiered model (see image above).  We believe in order to truly serve the whole child, educators must systematically measure the effectiveness of tier 1 core supports in all three areas: academics, behavior, and social emotional.  There should be strategic core plans in place that identify grade or school-wide deficits in these major areas with a strategic improvement plan. 

Once the school begins acting on core areas of concern, they should start to identify students outside and perhaps within those areas who need strategic tier 2 and/or intensive tier 3 supports.  Intervention plans should be written to address the needs of these students and document support services provided. Educators should measure the impact of students’ response to instruction by using frequent progress monitoring. 

The life blood of this model – Professional Learning Communities.  None of this work should be done in isolation by a single teacher. These conversations, data-analyses, and service planning should be done inside a strong professional learning community model.  These PLCs should be facilitated by a strong leadership team and should be communicated through School Improvement Team work. A comprehensive model, but not impossible.

Just remember, tradition does not make best practice when it stops being best for kids.  Change is hard. Failure is unavoidable. How you rise from your failed attempts will determine the impact and effectiveness of your leadership.  It’s ok to ask for help when help is needed.

To learn more about how i-LEADR coaches and supports MTSS implementation visit us at:

Changing Disruptive Behavior in 5 Minutes

Changing Disruptive Behavior in 5 Minutes

We’ve all had that kid in our class. The kid that constantly disrupts our lesson, doesn’t follow directions, and doesn’t do a bit of work. The one that seems to get the entire class into a frenzy. We get so frustrated with them and either send them to another class, give them detention, or even an office referral. They become labeled as the “bad kid” or the “problem student” but have we taken the time to really know this student and why they behave the way they do?

How can we minimize the disruptive behavior from our most challenging students?

Take Time.

Days are jammed packed full of things to do and accomplish before that bell rings but just find 5 minutes of your day by:

  • Greeting them at the door
  • Talking with them in the hallways
  • Sitting with them at lunch
  • Waiting with them at the car/bus rider line

Find any time you can to talk with a student to get to know more about them and even them about you.

Have a Conversation.

This may sound simple but if you really listen you can put the pieces together.

  • What are their likes and dislikes?
  • What is home life like? Do they live with mom, dad, grandparents, etc.?
  • Do they like school?
  • What is their favorite subject?
  • Who is their favorite teacher?

Simple questions will tell you so much about a student and why they might behave the way that they do.

Use What You Know.

Now that you’ve had a conversation and actually KNOW your student use the knowledge and information you just gained to make school some place they want to be.

  • Incorporate their likes into your lessons to keep them engaged
  • Use their likes as incentives for good behavior
  • Home life may not be the best, so make your classroom and yourself a nurturing and supportive place that they want to come to everyday
  • Talk with their favorite teacher about strategies and ideas that they use as something you can start implementing in your classroom
  • Do check-in/check-out with their favorite teacher each day

5 minutes. That’s all it took to find out more about your students. 5 minutes to make your classroom less disruptive. 5 minutes to change a life.