Digital Check-in / Check-out is coming back on 24 Sept 2020 at 3:30pm PT.

Check-in / Check-out (CICO) is a simple framework for social, emotional, and academic support, and it’s typically easy for schools and youth-serving programs to implement

Basically, CICO works because the intervention is about strengthening relationships with students and communicating with young people effectively. And, while many schools have done CICO well with in-person learning, CICO for digital learning spaces can be equally effective.

Join us for our next free upcoming Digital Check-in / Check-out webinar! It’ll be 90 minutes long, and will focus primarily on implementing Check-in / Check-out in digital learning spaces.


Build classroom community with digital buddy boards

Relationships first

-by Tim Grivois-Shah, Ed.D.

In April of 2016, I was principal of an elementary school that tragically lost an amazing kindergarten teacher. Maria would check in on me each Monday and ask about my family and how I was doing. She’d make sure to have a kind word and a smile as I began my week, and I’m certain that her kindness rippled into every classroom I visited.

Free Webina: 26 and 27 August, 1:00pm to 2:30pm and 3:00pm to 4:30pm MST

At the first staff meeting after the death of a teacher who had been helping our littlest learners grow since the school was built, I discovered that there were teachers who had been serving at the school nearly as long as Maria, yet never had a conversation with her. The two minutes that Maria spent with me on Monday mornings were two minutes I would have wanted any staff member to experience, and I decided that we would be as purposeful about connecting with each other as Maria had been with me.

Our solution was to create a staff Buddy Board. The idea is simple: 

  • Print your staff roster.
  • Assign each staff member a buddy.
  • Do something with your buddy at the staff meeting.

We used name tags that attached to a foam board with magnetic tape, and we pulled buddy activities from our Sanford Harmony box. If you don’t have Sanford Harmony, you can create your own 2-3 minute activity list as a team, or just search the web for ideas. The goal, however, was simple—every staff member would have at least two meaningful opportunities to connect with everyone else by the end of each year.

I realized that if a group of teachers could come together for a Wednesday staff meeting for decades without necessarily having spoken to everyone they work with, then to assume that a classroom of students would build connections with each other on their own seemed unwise. If love and belonging are prerequisite to learning, then we needed to be intentional about creating opportunities for our students to connect.

Digital Buddy Boards are a powerful framework for supporting connections between students in your classroom, school, or system.

Buddy Boards are a great school-wide strategy that can easily adapt to digital learning spaces. You could implement them in a classroom, throughout a school, and between grade levels. You can (and should) involve staff in your Buddy Boards, especially staff that are generally left on the margins of our school community (think teaching assistants, custodians, food service, bus drivers, and crossing guards).

If only because you’ll know that every student in your digital classroom will have meaningful opportunities to experience love and belonging, creating a digital buddy board is a great thing to do right now. And, your buddy board can help engage students in important dialogue when:

  • Students return from a screen break, you’re waiting for everyone to log on.
  • You’re providing 1:1 or small group support in a breakout room, and the rest of the students are done with their work.
  • It’s the start or the end of a class period or day.

And, while Digital Buddy Boards are not typically part of traditional Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports training, they fit perfectly into Tier 1 PBIS practices. Anything we can do to provide students frequent and meaningful opportunities to connect with each other in low-risk, high-warmth situations increases the likelihood of them learning how to manage conflict on their own when necessary. Plus, it’s fun!

I hope you’ll join us for one of the free 90 minute webinars coming up on 26 and 27 August, 2020. Webinars are at 1:00pm to 2:30pm and 3:00pm to 4:30pm both days, and you can sign up here.


The importance of clarity.

-by Tim Grivois-Shah, Ed.D.

The importance of clarity.

What does it mean to say that we are doing something? It means that:

  • Everyone who is supposed to do it (and everyone we’re doing it for) knows what it is and what it’s supposed to do.
  • Everyone who is supposed to do it (and everyone we’re doing it for) is equipped to do it.

We’ll get to the second condition in the next article. This week article is about the importance of knowing what you are doing and about helping you and your team get clear on your work and what you hope to achieve.

Before you read too far, I want you to know that there are more important questions for me to answer. Questions like: 

I’ve linked articles from colleagues with skills and knowledge to help answer these questions, and I encourage you to read those articles too. After all, if you’re reading my blog, it’s probably because you are a leader of some kind in a caring profession, and you want to do the work the right way.

For now, what I want to do is to provide a framework for thinking about something important that you are already working on. Using this framework will help you and your team get clear about your goals, increase the efficacy of your strategy, and elevate the success of your work.

If we can’t explain it, can we really be doing it?

Everyone who’s supposed to do it knows what it is, who it is for, and what it is supposed to do.

Whether your school has been a Project Based Learning school for years or if your agency just started a staff wellness initiative, everyone who is supposed to be doing the thing must know what it is, who it’s for, and what it’s supposed to do. 

Here is a simple exercise to take action towards clarity:

  • Name the thing you’re doing.
  • Name who the thing you’re doing is supposed to help.
  • Describe what the thing you’re doing is supposed to achieve.

If you’d like, here’s a print version of this exercise in print form:

Or, click here to check out this digital version of the same exercise.

The people for whom we are doing it know what it is and what it is supposed to do.

For reasons encoded deep into the DNA of how culture influences schools, agencies, and organizations, the people for whom we are doing something are typically the last to know about something we are doing on their behalf. It is essential that the people for whom you are doing it know what it is and what it is supposed to do. Here are two reasons why your project will fail unless the people your project is about are involved from the beginning:

It’s immoral.

“Nothing about us without us” is a phrase used in a wide variety of activist circles to dismantle systems where those in power make decisions on behalf of groups without power and without their involvement or consent. Examples of this that occur frequently are when:

  • Schools make major changes in how students learn without explaining to families why they’re making a change and what’s supposed to happen as a result.
  • Law enforcement agencies increase their visibility without explaining to their community what they’re doing and what their goals are.
  • Nonprofit agencies ask youth to speak on panels without compensating them for their time or equipping them to participate as partners.

It makes your work harder than it needs to be.

While all of the above examples are morally suspect, they also make your work harder than it needs to be. Think about how all of the above examples change when the people for whom we are doing something know what it is and what it is supposed to do:

  • The school changing how students learn involves families at the first planning meeting. They provide the context for the change and opportunities to be trained in what will happen in their children’s classrooms. As a result, families not only understand the work but also help the work get done.
  • Law enforcement agencies seek out and create opportunities to be invited into communities. As a result, officers learn to view communities as the answer to problems rather than as the problem to solve with the tools of policing.
  • Nonprofits explain what the purpose of the panel is going to be. Resources are provided to help youth frame their message in the context of their own lived experience, and youth are compensated (in cash) for their time. As a result, the nonprofit has a cadre of highly trained youth who can support the work as peers.

Why it matters

Leaders who can explain what their team is doing and also provide those that they serve with meaningful and frequent opportunities to be participate are better able to elevate the success of their team and their organization. Regardless of what your organization is doing, or for how long an initiative has been going on, leaders who can explain what they’re doing, who it benefits, and what’s going to happen when the project succeeds are equipped with everything the need to plan, execute, and succeed.

Author’s note: Helping leaders, teams, and organizations achieve clarity in their work is an essential element of my work. The next time you’re writing a newsletter or explaining to your team a directive you’ve received, consider scheduling a call and seeing how I can help.


Eight Dimensions of Wellness

-by Tim Grivois-Shah, Ed.D.

Wellness is neither selfish nor a luxury–it’s required.

Dr. Cornel West famously said “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” As a person believes that education is a means to achieve social justice, Dr. West’s words remind me that my work to create just, equitable, antiracist, and inclusive schools begins not in the classroom, school, or park district, but rather within my own self. To be a person working for justice means that paying attention to my wellness is neither selfish nor a luxury—it’s required.

Higher Ground is a nonprofit organization in Tucson that runs a student wellness center for local elementary, middle, and high school students. Like other after school programs, students can work on homework and participate in a variety of activities including: basketball, drum-line, jiu-jitsu, judo, and outside sports. What makes Higher Ground unique, however, is that each program participant has their own wellness plan organized around the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Eight Dimensions of Wellness.

Even more powerful, however, is how the Eight Dimensions of Wellness help Higher Ground staff to take care of themselves so that they are equipped to care for others. Arthur Rodgers, Higher Ground’s Executive Director explains that “the Eight Dimensions of Wellness help me create a balanced life for myself and keep me focused on the whole person when serving others. Thecia Rodgers, Community Schools Director, agrees, saying “The Eight Dimensions of Wellness help me personally to be aware of my own health and wellness lifestyle, and to identify where my own wellness could be stronger. This helps me consider each person I serve as a whole person.”

As you read through the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, notice which aspects of wellness you currently practice. It might also be helpful to note something you can do today to support a dimension of wellness that you might not practice as frequently.

Eight Dimensions of Wellness 


Physical wellness is about caring for our bodies. We attend to our physical wellness when we eat well, drink enough water, and get regular exercise. Making sure to get enough sleep and scheduling necessary medical, dental, and vision appointments are also essential aspects of physical wellness. Finally, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs is important to our physical wellness.


Learning new skills and developing new understandings supports intellectual wellness. Choose something that interests you and make a plan to learn more about it. This might be reading a book, doing something creative, or purposefully engaging in new ideas or perspectives.


Naming our feelings and paying attention to how we manage both positive and negative emotions supports emotional wellness. Managing stress, building resiliency, and developing a positive outlook are all key components of emotional wellness. Sometimes, the work of emotional wellness happens best with spending some time alone, and other times, connecting to our support networks is better.


Having purpose and meaning is crucial to wellness. Pay attention to values and sense of purpose. If necessary, uncover, discover, or recover what matters most to you. Some people find support in participating in communities with shared values. Others find it helpful to reflect on values and purpose privately. Most important, work to make sure that your actions align with your values and purpose.


One key aspect of environmental wellness is finding ways of living that respect the environment. Recycling, driving less, and planting trees are three ways that we might support our environmental wellness. Another aspect of environmental wellness connects to building comfortable places to live and work. Cleaning up the kitchen at home and clearing off our desks at work are examples of practicing environmental wellness.


The basic level of financial wellness is working to make sure that we have enough income to feed ourselves, our families, and to pay the bills. Taking stock of our income and expenses is a powerful way to practice financial wellness. More than earning money and making budgets, however, financial wellness is about understanding our personal relationship with money. By reflecting on what money means to us, we gain a better sense of what might be influencing our spending and saving, and whether those influences are helpful.

What love looks like in public

Dr. West asks us “Never to forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” As we seek to be educators who create just classrooms, dismantle oppression, and help children and youth become successful learners and good human beings, the implications of Dr. West’s words are tremendous. If justice is what love looks like in public, then our capacity to build a just world depends both on the level of love we show ourselves and how skillfully we care for ourselves across all Eight Dimensions of Wellness.

Of course Eight Dimensions of Wellness is not the only framework for practicing self-care. I would encourage everyone to spend some time researching wellness and to pay attention to resources that connect with them. However, what I’ve seen at Higher Ground makes me think that the Eight Dimensions of Wellness are a good place to start. I’ve summarized definitions and examples from the University of Maryland’s wellness information site, and you can learn more by clicking here.


Love + Content + Time.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois-Shah

I believe that the heart of effective teaching and learning is love + content + time, and that all three are necessary to build and sustain effective districts, schools, and classrooms. Here is why:

The inspiration from this post came from my work with Higher Ground. Click here and learn more about them.


Love is the starting point of effective teaching and learning. And, while good teachers recognize that love is the center of their practice, teachers are often afraid that this love could be misunderstood. After all, when I say “I love my spouse,” I mean something different than way I say “I love popcorn.” 

But let’s get real for a moment—Teaching is a profession that expects an intelligent person with at least one (and typically several) college degrees to help a room full of other people’s children become successful learners and good human beings. In between “I love my spouse” and “I love popcorn” is a type of love that effective teachers understand is at the center of their practice.  

“You look upset. Are you ok?”“I need you to focus on your work.”
“It’s good to see you! You’re running late again. We can make a plan together when you’re ready to talk about it.”“You’re late again, and now you’re behind the rest of the class.”
“Come back to me tomorrow, and in one piece!”“Pages 4-5 are due tomorrow.”
“I want to make sure my students are represented in their learning. That’s why I’m doing so much reading on culturally sustaining pedagogy this summer.”“I don’t see color.”
Love is essential.

Loving our students and expressing that love in our practice ought to be an explicit part of every educator’s job description and professional preparation program. Nothing-not one thing-happens in a classroom or in a school until students know that they are safe, loved, and cared for.


Content represents precisely what we mean by social, emotional, and academic achievement. The most engaging activity in the world and the most informative text ever written are only useful if the schools and teachers using them understand what students are supposed to learn as a result.

Here are some examples and non-examples of ensuring that all students have access to important content:

There is a written curriculum, and everyone knows where to find it.There is no written curriculum, so everyone develops their own materials.
“Hey, this fun activity I found on the internet matches where my class is at right now in their science curriculum!”“Well, this quarter is supposed to be about life cycles, but I really like this activity about fossils. Let’s do it!”
“This math lesson is supposed to be hard. We’re learning not only how to use statistics for modeling, but also how to manage stress when things feel overwhelming.”“Ok, now that math is done, let’s do this lesson on stress I found.”
“Ok, team, we’ve got [x] learning targets to master this semester. Do we have materials for all of them?”“Uh oh…we’ve got three weeks left in the semester, and we only taught half the learning targets. Let’s do a jigsaw for the last three chapters of the textbook.”
“Let’s check to make sure that our reading lists are inclusive of authors of color.”People of color are invisible in the curriculum.
Please do not neglect the last row.

Please do not neglect the last row in the table. Supporting social, emotional, and academic achievement means ensuring that our students are represented in the content we teach. Otherwise, we risk creating schools in which, as Dr. Jamila Lyiscott warns, “The content of the curriculum ignore[s] the cultures of their communities” (Lyiscott, 2019).

To become successful learners and good human beings requires that students leave our classrooms each day equipped with knowledge, understanding, and skills that they didn’t have before. While it’s possible (and typically dangerous) to teach students something on accident, students achieve more when everyone involved is intentional about what the point of each lesson, unit, and course is about.


The level of learning that happens in our schools and classrooms depends on the level of love our students experience, the level of clarity regarding the content they are to learn, and finally, the way we view time as a resource for learning.

Time is more than just a thing we all feel we need more of. Yes, we need time to collaborate, plan, teach, and reflect. All the grading, assessment, and stuff our principal or superintendent needs us to do takes time. However, when the only thing that matters in a school is what happens in this period, this semester, or this academic year, time will never feel like an ally.

I know this is a bit meta, but when we think about supporting students’ social, emotional, and academic achievement, time isn’t really about the minutes in a period we have to teach today’s content. Rather, time is the medium through which growth happens.

Think of it this way—If students were like a packet of sunflower seeds, we could predict how fast each seed ought to grow, what kind of light they need, and how much to water them. Truthfully, our students are more like a packet of assorted seeds from apple, orange, and peach trees, with a few acorns tossed in just because. We don’t expect a peach pit to turn into a mature tree by the end of a semester or even an academic year. To do the same for our students just makes everyone frustrated.

When we expand our timeframe for our work, we can see ourselves as part of a system meant to help students learn and grow over a lifetime. We also see that our role in supporting our students’ growth changes depending on where they are at in their learning. Whether we are building better schools by becoming trauma informed, enhancing our curriculum, or learning to use a new computer intervention, time is always on our side. 

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone has a right to waste a minute in the life of a child. Time is precious. What I am saying, though, is that if we see our students as trees rather than sunflowers, we can also understand that the time frame for our work is far bigger then a single lesson or even a school year.

Sometimes, students respond to our love and our content with indifference. Sometimes they struggle with concepts far more than we wish. All too often, brilliant students are told that they are not that brilliant because of a  yearly test score that can’t (or won’t) see them as anything other than a number that’s not high enough yet. But we can learn to view time differently, and if we can help our students to do the same, we can also learn that what we do today matters even when we can’t see the change right away.

I’d like for you to check out Higher Ground, an organization that has always understood that all children are worthy of love, all children deserve to be taught how to be a person of character, and that all children have a right to their own time.

I’d also invite you to read Dr. Lyiscott’s book, Black Appetite. White Food.  Lyiscott, Jamila. (2019). Black appetite. White food. Routledge.



We don’t have time to think about values…we’re just trying to finish the year and reopen school somehow.”

In a breath, educators across the United States completely transformed the way they connect with students and their families. Boundaries between work and home, always blurry for educators, have dissolved completely as we connect with learners online, via text, and curbside house calls. Thinking about our own values and vision right now feels goofy—and perhaps a little selfish—given what our work demands of us if we want to do right by our students

Frankly, I’d be suspicious of anyone who knows what the ‘best’ way to teach, run a school, or do our jobs well right now. As I stand, in this moment, I am both proud of my colleagues and aware that we don’t really know yet what we’re doing. The risk, though, of not pausing to uncover, discover, and recover our values is to continue a drastic re-imaging of schooling without considering the values that form the ethical core of our profession. More acute, though, is that by not examining the values guiding who we are and what we do, we increase the risk of moral injury.

Moral injury is the harm that occurs when a person is forced to act in ways that violate their values. Values are windows through which we see who we aspire to be and mirrors that reflect how well who we currently are matches our aspirations. Generally, values are effective because they tend to be automatic and implicit filters that guide day-to-day decisions without too much pondering. A quick glance through the values window reminds us that we are loving, caring, and expert professionals, and brief look in the values mirror reveals the kind words and time spent honing our craft each day that let us know we’re doing our best, and that our best is pretty good.

As the context of our work shifts, our values might need to shift as well.

However, when the entire context for our work shifts to something we would never want for ourselves or our students, values that used to support our work can feel impossible to live up to. While each person’s resilience, support, and capacity to practice self-care and healing is unique, many educators are struggling line up how replacing math instruction with Kahn Academy, reading instruction with audiobooks, and classroom instruction for online class meetings (where some students own three laptops and an iPad and others borrow their parent’s cell phone to text answers to their teacher) lines up with what the values at the core of their work. 

If you feel like your students deserve better, you are right. And knowing that this is not your fault doesn’t make it easier.

Take a moment and answer this question: “To be a professional that effectively supports children and youth to become successful learners and good human beings, it is important that I am [insert one word answer].”

In January, I would have said my most important answers were:

  • Reflective
  • Kind
  • Competent

Now, as I listen to my daughter communicate her grief over lost friends communicated in elaborate refusals to do the Beethoven book report, I recognize that patience, kindness, and competence won’t cut it.

Right now, I’m coming to understand that to do this work it is essential that I am:

  • Healthy
  • Present
  • Compassionate

It is important that I am healthy, and that means I schedule time to exercise. I must be present so that I focus on the issue in front of me and am available to those who need me. Finally, compassion for myself and for others helps me move beyond judgement and into action.

I am not claiming that these three values are all that are important to me, nor that anyone else needs to share my list. What I am suggesting is we might be able to look through a clearer window and more reflective mirror. Organizing resources to support social, emotional, and academic achievement begins with our values, and we get to choose what we value. Choose values that help—that’s what our values are supposed to do.

Positive reinforcement system: the vehicle for powerful words.

By Dr. Tim Grivois, Executive Director

Schools implementing Positive Behavior Interventions and Support have a positive reinforcement system. Whether the system involves tickets, marbles in a jar, or digital certificates, each school’s positive reinforcement system is a vehicle for powerful words that support students in building healthy habits. Effective positive reinforcement systems have three key attributes: immediate, genuine & generous, and take three seconds or less.


The best time to let students know they’re doing something good is as soon as you see them do it. Effective recognition systems equip school adults to reinforce positive behavior in the moment.

Genuine and generous

The words we use for positive reinforcement must be genuine and generousGenuine positive support is values-centered, meaning the words we use connect to established school values. For example, a teacher might say, “When you came to school on time and ready to learn, you demonstrated respect for your learning and your classmate’s learning.”

We also want positive feedback to be generous. Ideally, aim for a ratio of four to five positive interactions to every corrective interaction. And, a quick-to-use recognition system makes generous positive reinforcement ‘ classroom possible.’

Take three seconds or less.

Finally, positive reinforcement is most effective when we are brief. “Thank you for being safe by walking!” is all we need. Whether your school uses a ticket, marbles in a jar, or digital points, remember that these tools are simply vehicles for the words. We can keep our words brief when the system is easy to use. Brief words are easy to understand and effortless to say. Pair those words with a protocol that takes three seconds or less to build a durable, sustainable positive reinforcement system for your school.

Join us on 9 November 2022 from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm (Arizona Time) for a free webinar on recognition systems and PBIS. You can register by clicking here:

No more self-less self-care.

-by Dr. Tim Grivois, Executive Director

On 18 November 2022, 3:00-4:30 pm (Arizona Time), I’ll lead a session of one of our most popular online workshops: Self-care for Caring Professionals. As always, we’ll explore self-care strategies through the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. However, what’s new in this workshop is how we’ll confront what I’m calling “Self-less self-care.”

“Self-less self-care” is dangerous.

“Self-less self-care” is dangerous. Self-care advocates often use the airplane oxygen mask metaphor, saying, “You need to put on your mask before helping others.” It’s time to stop using this metaphor. Persuading people to care for themselves so they can put more effort into others encourages caring professionals to put obstacles between themselves and their valid (and often pressing) needs.

We need air to live. We don’t need to explain why or ask permission to breathe. Yet, many times, leaders of caring organizations will contact me for self-care workshops hoping that I’ll help teachers, healthcare providers, or nonprofit staff be happier so that work can demand more and more. We can’t root self-care in selfishness because self-care is not selfish.

Self-care is not selfish.

The remedy for “self-less self-care” is not selfishness. Selfish people meet their needs without considering how their actions affect others. Self-caring people, however, understand that empathy happens from the inside out. 

As caring professionals, we constantly confront circumstances where helping others risks harming ourselves. Yet, too often, we create short-term workarounds to manage prolonged stress. ‘Self-less self-care’ may feel effective for a short time. However, continuing to practice ‘self-less self-care’ harms us long-term and models self-destructive behaviors we want our students, families, and clients to avoid.

Join us!

All participants in Self-care for Caring Professionals receive the Eight Dimensions of Wellness Deck. We use the deck to consider eight opportunities to be happy and healthy, and also explore how attending to our Eight Dimensions of Wellness supports healthy boundaries. The workshop is $37 per person. If you’re registering on your own and want a scholarship, email me and let me know. 

Three reasons why individualized behavior support plans fail.

-by Dr. Tim Grivois, Executive Director, TGS Educational Consulting

When schools develop school-wide systems to meet students’ social, emotional, and academic needs (usually, but not always, within a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports framework), they typically develop fewer individualized behavior support plans. Nevertheless, when students need extra love and support to be their best, knowing how to create an Individualized Behavior Support Plan is essential. However, because Individualized Behavior Support Plans require considerable staff time, effort, and resources, effective leaders take the time to ensure that the supports we put in place are likely to succeed. Individualized Behavior Support Plans fail when they are too big, too shallow, or written by a behavior expert.

Too big.

The quickest way to ensure that a Behavior Support Plan fails is to make it too big. A Behavior Support Plan is too big when the plan requires more than the team can do. Often, ideas that seemed good at the meeting are more challenging to maintain in real life. Signs that your Behavior Support Plan might be too big are:

  • Collecting, tracking, and reporting more than one new data point.
  • Reassigning or hiring personnel.
  • Expecting youth to address more than one issue at a time.
  • Purchasing resources out of personal funds.

Too shallow.

Another way to prevent a Behavior Support Plan from succeeding is to create one that is too shallow. A Behavior Support Plan is too shallow when the team focuses only on what triggers behavior without considering all aspects of wellness. Signs that your Behavior Support Plan might be too shallow are:

  • The plan only supports behavior without considering the youth’s entire social, emotional, and academic well-being.
  • Youth and family are not co-creating the plan with the school team.
  • The plan explains what the youth will do in great detail, with minimal explanation of what school adults, family, and outside providers will do.

Written by a behavior expert.

I routinely work with schools to implement Individualized Behavior Support Plans. While I am always happy to support their local team with ideas, I will only write one with the entire team’s input, including youth and family. While an outside expert can provide valuable perspective, we will always need considerable input from the site-based team to create anything worthwhile. Signs that a behavior expert wrote the plan are:

  • The plan contains obvious strategies that the school has already tried. 
  • Strategies may not match the team’s knowledge about the youth, family, and school setting.
  • The plan expects school personnel to implement practices for which they’ve never received any training.

In my experience, Individualized Behavior Support Plans fail when they are too big, too shallow, or written by a behavior expert. The best way to address these issues is to do the opposite. The next time your team meets to create an Individualized Behavior Support Plan, strive to make the plan small enough to implement well, deeper than just the behavior we’d like changed, and written by the real experts: the youth, family, and school staff who are providing support. When outside help is necessary, get the most value from their expertise by developing systems and ideas that make sense for you. 

Finally, you’ll find resources for Individualized Behavior Support Planning throughout the blog and at our next PBIS webinar on the 26th of October. Click here for more information and to register.

Free Webinar: Individual Behavior Support Plan Template

-by Dr. Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Executive Director

While most behavior support plans include strategies for preventing unexpected behavior, few seriously consider the root causes of challenging behaviors outside of immediate triggers. Instead, TGS’ Individual Behavior Support Plan Template places student wellness first and makes every opportunity available to meet students’ needs.

On 26 October 2022 at 3 pm MST, I’ll walk through the Individual Behavior Support Plan Template. We’ll work together to explore how this way of thinking is more effective and often requires less energy and resources from school staff.

Click here to register for our next free PBIS webinar, and email me your questions at tim@tgseducationalconsulting.com

If you register, you’ll want to download the template here, and the Eight Dimensions of Wellness Cards here.

Reflective CICO

By Dr. Timothy (Tim) Grivois

Suppose a youth needing support for unexpected behaviors could receive frequent brief doses of positive, values-centered feedback that pre-teaches expectations at regularly scheduled intervals. What would we expect to happen?

The obvious outcome would be a dramatic reduction in unexpected behavior. The goal of Check-in/Check-out (CICO), a standard behavior intervention in Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, has always been to provide students with adult connection and support. 

Curiously, the data that schools usually track is typically student-facing. While trainers frequently emphasize that “the intervention is the conversation, not the form,” in practice, the form tends to dominate. The student carries a point card with them throughout the day (or, more often, loses it), and teachers rate their behavior against how well they conform to school values. 

PBIS must better align CICO systems, data, and practices, and Reflective CICO is the best way to do this. Instead of tracking student behavior (which we do anyway with office referrals), we need to track that critical elements of CICO conversations occur as scheduled and as trained. For CICO to work, teacher feedback must be:

  • Values-centered
  • Positive
  • Relevant to the next setting area, and
  • Brief

Values-centered feedback connects to established school norms. For instance, if “trustworthy” is a school norm, a teacher might say, “You were trustworthy when you asked permission to go to the nurse, and you came back as soon as you were done.” For more examples of values-centered feedback, click here.

Positive means that we refrain from describing what not to do. Instead, we explain how a student might honor school values more fully. Such feedback often sounds like this: “It was tricky for me to help your group when you were interrupting your peers. It’s helpful when you show them respect by letting them finish before asking your question.” We can give positive feedback, even when students need to grow. This happens when we go beyond explaining the problem by providing ideas for a solution.

Feedback for students should be as relevant to where they are going as to where they have been. Cueing students to values essential to the next part of the day helps students move beyond any issues of the last hour towards success in the next. Sometimes, I’ll hear teachers say, “You’re about to go to Social Studies, and being responsible by following directions is very important to Mr. Brigham. Keep your eyes on him, and I know you’ll have a great class!”

Finally, CICO sings when interactions are brief. The longer we talk, the more cumbersome CICO becomes, especially when we have such short transitions between subjects and periods. Aim for 30 seconds or less, which seems to be 2-3 sentences.

You can download a Reflective CICO point card below and start as soon as you’re ready. This card is CICO-SWIS compatible (talk to your facilitator about how to do this). By keeping the data teacher-facing, we eliminate several common problems with traditional CICO data. No more lost forms, students refusing to take them, or conversations that focus more on points than on the good we want to see in our students.

If you have questions about implementing this more manageable, more effective version of CICO, email me and let’s talk! 

Use your words.

Positive feedback begins with positive, accurate words.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

Since much of my work is helping schools implement Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, teams often want to know how best to recognize students for living school values out loud. Thankfully, the best way to recognize students for positive behavior is to use words. Often, the words sound like this:

“Thank you for being compassionate by including new friends in your game!”

I recommend using words because they cost nothing and matter more than anything.

However, many schools I work with want to build a more comprehensive recognition system. Some pay external vendors to set up digital stores and track digital points. Others create forms where teachers type positive news, and a beautiful certificate gets emailed to families automatically. Most use a simple ticket or token system without a store but may host whole-school celebrations when the school reaches a particular goal. 

And honestly, while all of the incentives and reward systems might add some fun for students for a time, nothing we do to recognize the good our students bring to school will ever matter more than our words. Here are some examples of excellent positive feedback I hear when I’m in classrooms:

  • You were inquisitive when you asked [another student] to tell you more about what they were saying.”
  • I thought I would have to put all these computers away by myself, and then you came over and helped me. That was kind.
  • I know you are always safe by walking, and I’m going to say thank you every day because it helps everyone remember to look out for each other.
  • I remember you forgot your homework yesterday and felt a bit stressed about it, and then you were responsible by using your time wisely in class. You’re doing great!
  • You were brave when you respectfully but firmly stepped in when a classmate made a sexist comment in class. That’s what allies do.

It’s not about things.

The key to recognizing student behavior isn’t the tangible or intangible ‘things.’ After all, even an intangible bribe is still a bribe. What matters most are our words. Before spending any time designing how many tickets earn extra recess or whether or not to have a pizza party, think about your school values and write out a few examples of what you’d like to be able to say to students when they live a value out loud. Having the words in our heads ahead of time makes them come out easier and more authentically when the moment is right.

To be clear, I love a good pizza party, especially if the principal can supervise a grade or two while the kids eat and watch a movie. Let’s have fun and give teachers a break too! But, we don’t need to tie these joyful moments to behavior. Instead, recognize positive behavior with words. Celebrate whenever you’d like and however kids like. And if you’re not sure, ask them.

Working smarter.

by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.  

Successful initiatives begin with a shared understanding of what the team is doing, who the work is for, and what’s supposed to happen when we get it right. Sometimes, leaders assume that everyone understands what’s going on. The best, however, take no chances. Recently, Fatih Karatas, Chief Executive Officer at Sonoran Schools, sat down with me and his leadership team to list all initiatives and then identify the audience, responsibility, and outcome for each.

First, we brainstormed initiatives. We defined “initiatives” as anything Sonoran Schools was doing that was not yet a part of their automatic, unprompted, and systematic practice. Taking attendance in their school information system, for example, would not be an initiative, because everyone knows how to take attendance and does so every day. However, the team identified several initiatives that were important to the organization, but were not yet part of routine, daily practice:

Next, we identified who was responsible for each initiative. When I lead this process, the person ‘responsible’ is the person who is paid to ensure the initiative is done well. Whether the project is 1% or 100% of a position, without leadership, initiatives fail. Often, teams note that responsibilities are shared or duplicated, leading to fruitful discussions about how best to allocate limited leadership time.

After we agreed on who was principally in charge of each initiative, we identified each project’s audience. The audience for an initiative is the group whose practice or behavior must change. For example, while the Director of Student Conduct and Safety is responsible for PBIS, the district-level audience for the work are the principals and deans who must implement PBIS systems and practices.

Finally, we outlined outcomes for each initiative. We know our outcomes are correct when they describe what happens when we get it right. For PBIS, we decided the outcome would be that every site has implemented effective systems, practices, and data strategies to support positive behavioral outcomes for students. 

While aligning initiatives this way clearly supported the team, what matters most is what happens next. Now that each initiative has a clear leader, audience, and outcome, Sonoran Schools is going to develop outcomes and key results to guide daily practice. I’ll share more here when we’re done!

Note: Other versions of the Working Smarter Matrix are available all over the internet. The one that I use is below.

Free webinar: Getting Started with Check-in / Check-out (CICO) with Dr. Tim Grivois

by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

I’m excited to announce the first in a bi-weekly series of free webinars on behavioral supports happening every Wednesday at 3:00 pm (MST) on zoom.

Our first webinar, Getting started with Check-in / Check-out (CICO), will be on 28 September. This session is for schools that have already implemented school-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Support. Often, students need a little extra love to be their best in school. CICO is an excellent framework for providing these students with positive adult attention and connection. With CICO, your school can front-load the love and support for students who need it most.

Participants will learn ‘classic’ CICO as well as a version that refocuses reflection on adult supports and away from student unexpected behavior. Both can work, and both are easy to start.

Join us and learn what CICO is and how to get started. Click here to register: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0ucO2tqDorG9X1okKQrBjU-ysL2CJmZu96 

Developing emotional vocabulary.

-by Timothy (Tim) Grivois, Ed.D.

Social and emotional learning is not extra. On the contrary, alongside academic mastery, social and emotional skills are essential to becoming successful learners and good human beings. Emotional regulation, in particular, is critical to maintaining good mental health and developing healthy relationships. Like all SEL skills, emotional regulation begins from the inside out and depends on developing a broad and nuanced vocabulary for naming and expressing emotions. Here are three classroom-possible strategies for developing emotional vocabulary.

Mood Meter

Dr. Marc Brackett, author of “Permission to Feel,” developed the Mood Meter to help people name and understand emotions. You can find a simplified version here.

The mood meter invites us to stop for a moment and notice how we feel. Do we feel pleasant or unpleasant? And how intense is the experience? For example, the difference between “drained” and “sleepy” may seem subtle, but it is the difference between urgently needing rest and crawling into bed peacefully.

Consider enlarging the Mood Meter and using it as part of a class meeting, or print individual mood meters for students to use at their desks.

Paint Chips

While some hardware stores may not give away paint chips as readily anymore, even a few can be excellent tools for developing emotional vocabulary. Like a smaller, customizable version of the Mood Meter, each paint chip gathers similar emotional vocabulary words together and helps arrange them by intensity. Teachers may model this process first and then ask students to create their own ‘word families’ using the emotions they are learning about.

Here is an example of developing emotional vocabulary using paint chips:

Developing Emotional Vocabulary with Paint Chips

Art and Literature

An art teacher in Tucson combines the Mood Meter into visual arts lessons by selecting emotional vocabulary words and finding a clear example of those feelings in paintings and sculpture. Then, students identify what elements of the art contribute to those feelings and learn to express similar emotions on their own.

An English Language Arts teacher might focus on what the reader can infer about a character’s feelings based on words and phrases in the text. Students can practice similar structures in their own writing to convey feelings.

Expressing feelings without words in the classroom often looks and sounds like unexpected behaviors. An angry student knocks over a chair. A sad student puts their head down and disengages. A happy student interrupts their peers to share an unrelated story. Students with a broad and nuanced emotional vocabulary have words to express and regulate feelings. Investing in students’ emotional vocabulary expands social, emotional, and academic achievement.

Tim is hosting a free online workshop through the Tucson Regional Educator Collaborative on SEL on 9 September 2022. Click here to learn more.

PBIS101 for School Leaders with Dr. Tim Grivois

Join me on Friday, 2 December 2022 from 2:00-3:30 for a FREE webinar: PBIS101 for School Leaders. Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS) is a common framework for creating school-wide expectations and individualized behavioral interventions in schools throughout the country. 

If you are a school leader exploring PBIS, or if you’d like a refresher, this webinar is for you. Often, school leaders at schools already implementing PBIS find this training helpful too.

By the end of the workshop, you’ll understand how PBIS starts (school-wide / Tier 1), and where your PBIS implementation really starts to sing (Tier 2 and Tier 3).

This workshop is free, and is geared towards school and district leaders responsible for PBIS. You can register online here.