My son’s summer day camp was not well organized. When we arrived, I noticed counselors playing games with friends, and campers pushing and shoving. I saw a few staff talking with kids, but they were the exception. I noticed a fight breakout out on the basketball court when I picked up my son that afternoon. None of the counselors appeared to be concerned. I was able to stop the fight, but that was the last day my son attended this camp.
Staff who work with students should be prepared and supported to activity supervise, and just as importantly, redirect students effectively. You need systems and practices to make this happen. One study found having an effective violation system in place is one of “three active ingredients” for implementing positive behavior support in school settings.
There are at least three parts staff should consider that could have prevented problems in this camp (or in schools in general).
Make it clear who handles what
Staff should know the types of behaviors they are required to handle and which behaviors should be addressed by administrators. This should made be explicit to everyone, including students. This is an example of one high school’s process for determining who handles which types of behavior.
Have a process in place for addressing problem behavior
Staff should know the steps they should take to handle low and high level problems. Having a procedural chart like this one can help staff understand their role in the discipline process. Students should be aware of the process as well.
Prepare your staff to handle minor problem behaviors
It is not enough to expect staff to handle problem behavior. Like students, they should directly taught new skills. We find incorporating practice with role plays to be helpful to staff in order generalize their skills (listen to this example, see the PDF of the slides here). Also having strategies on a one page handout can be helpful too. Other professional development like those offered by IRIS Educational Media on defusing anger can be helpful as well. I also like this book on power struggles by Allen Mender. It’s a short read and a great book for smalls groups or professional learning communities.
In the end, I used some of the strategies to break of the fight included in the one page handout above. I walked over to the boys and asked in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear me, “is every one OK?” I assumed innocence. The boys stopped long enough to have their friends pull them apart and move on. When they stopped fighting a counselor came over and said, “they’re fine.” It was time for a new camp.
I wonder what strategies you or your staff find helpful for redirecting student behavior. Please leave a comment on my blog, I am sure I can learn from you.