Randy Sprick's Safe & Civil Schools – Practical Solutions, Positive Results!

Spring 2010

The Tough Kid Series in the Classroom

An Interview with Kim Rich, SPED Teacher at Crestview Elementary

SCS: Tell us about yourself. How long have you been teaching and how did you come into the profession?

Kim: I teach in a self-contained SPED classroom. Currently, I''m working with 12 kids with mild to moderate disabilities, so a range. I have students with learning disablities, kids on the autism spectrum, and a few who have emotional and behavioral disorders. Normally there is a full-time paraeducator in the classroom with me all day, and another paraeducator who comes in half-time.

I started in education as a paraeducator in a special education classroom. I earned my degree and I've been teaching now for seven years.

SCS: How did you hear about The Tough Kid materials? Why did you choose to use them?

Kim: I actually heard about The Tough Kid books in my teacher preparation classes. I had the opportunity to practice some of the strategies there. I had to present lessons and work with some of the strategies with students. After awhile, I got used to working with them and at this point, I'm very comfortable using them.

SCS: Which products are you using?

Kim: In my classroom, we currently use The Tough Kid Book and The Tough Kid Social Skills Book.

SCS: What strategies do you use most often? How do you feel about them?

FEVER acronym from Body Basics in The Tough Kid Social Skills BookKim: Oh, well there are several, but every year I always start off with "Body Basics" in The Tough Kid Social Skills Book. We start off teaching the kids the FEVER acronym and go through the book from there during the rest of the school year. It's a way to set a reference for the students. It gives us a common vocabulary and a starting point that we use to remind them of body basics throughout the year.

Another strategy I use constantly is "Precision Requests." I use them every day, all day. Whenever I find myself in a battle with one of the kids, I realize, "Oops, I didn't use a precision request!" Once I rephrase my request, students respond appropriately. It helps keep me calm and lets the kids know exactly what I need. I find that a precision request goes a long way toward diffusing potentially volatile situations.

"Mystery Motivators" is another common strategy in my classroom. I use it daily every morning. It is very motivating to my students because they set the whole thing up! They determine all the points, rewards, etc. It's very reinforcing because they came up with the entire plan!

I find that all of the strategies in the books are easy to use. For instance, Social Skills is almost scripted, so it is easy to pick up and it gives you hints and vocabulary. Very teacher friendly and the cost is good too.

SCS: How do the students and their parents feel about these strategies?

Kim: Students generally respond enthusiastically. Like with Mystery Motivators. For the most part, they think it's pretty fun. From what parents tell me, they are also pleased. Our parents pretty much think the teachers are fair and respectful with their children and with them.

SCS: Do other staff members work with The Tough Kid strategies as well? What have you heard about their reactions?

Kim: Yes, a lot of our teachers work with The Tough Kid materials and strategies.

Actually, when I first came into this classroom, my para had already implemented Mystery Motivators. She had heard Bill (Jenson) speak at a training for paraeducators and saw it as a good strategy. So she started it up!

When I want to implement any strategy from The Tough Kids resources, I just teach it to the paras and they are more than happy to implement it.

SCS: Did you have any problems putting these practices into place—obstacles you had to deal with?

Kim: Not at all.

The hardest thing I had to deal with was shrinking down the skill sheets for individual students and revising a few of the data collection forms to fit my needs. But nothing overwhelming. There are good posters and illustrations in the books and like anything, once you start using the materials, things go smoother.

SCS: What do your school adminstrators feel about your use of strategies and techniques presented in The Tough Kid series?

Kim: At our school, we have very good support from the administration. We use the Principal's 200 Club schoolwide to encourage positive behavior from our students and our administrators support all of our efforts in the classroom.

SCS: What would you tell other teachers or administrators who ask you about The Tough Kid resources and strategies?

Kim: These materials are the easiest, most understandable materials around. They are teacher-friendly, easy to read and to implement. Using them in my classroom has helped me create a good teaching-learning atmosphere and good relationships with my students.

SCS: What do you like best about the strategies you use?

Kim: They are easy to understand and use. I sometimes tell parents about the books we use and they feel the same way. I know a lot of behavior books are written in psycho-babble and are not so easy to get, but these are. Some of my parents use these strategies at home.

SCS: Do you have any complaints about them?

Kim: No, only what I mentioned previously about the skill cards and data forms, but if you think about it, no matter what resources or materials you use in the classroom, you always have to modify something. This was pretty minimal!

SCS: Do you have any data you can share with me?

Kim: Yes, actually. At the end of last year a young girl came into my class. She was in third grade and she absolutely refused to go through any standardized testing, complete any classroom assignments, and have any interaction with peers. She would sit in the principal's office on the floor and cringe. She had tremendous problems completing her work. That first term after she arrived in my classroom, there were 75 incidents of non-compliance. Now, after working through some of the strategies in The Tough Kid Social Skills Book, she has brought that number down to 45 incidents. She also has friends in class with whom she looks forward to spending time at recess.

SCS: Anything you want to add?

Kim: Just that these are great materials for the classroom. I have seen them work miracles!