America Needs a Behavior Intervention

During my long career as an educator, I’ve spent years tackling student behavior. I enjoy it because of the problem solving/mental challenge of it. As I explain to students, our biggest tool is proactive problem-solving. Just this week, I asked one how we could prevent a repeat of a significant behavior incident. He said next time he shouldn’t slide down the railing or run when corrected by an adult. Both of these are true, BUT he has a history of sliding down the banister and when really agitated, eloping from the building. He was surprised that I wanted to map backwards and not just leave the responsibility on him, only “Stop doing that!” We did find some initial conditions that we could tweak that would prevent the undesired behavior. Proactive problem-solving.

Right now, I feel like we need to stop as a country, step back, everyone list the behaviors that are bothering them, and then map backwards. My tolerance level in a classroom may be different from another teacher’s, but that doesn’t mean I can dictate what happens in their class or them in mine. It also doesn’t mean that anyone else should mandate how our classes function on a behavioral level. We each need to find what works for us that leads to a culture of respect, hard work, and values all members. There may be different paths for different educators to get there.

How does this relate to America? Take a look around, we are not valuing all members whether it is POC, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, or those at all levels of means. We then battle over the results and behaviors associated from that lack of value and respect. All week, I too, have had my thoughts about the abortion debate and the effect of seeing groups try to find ways to modify the behavior of others.

However, when I saw a post by Pink on Instagram that made me pause, I realized we need to map backwards. It said, “NEW RULE: if you ban abortion before you ban military-style assault rifles that massacre children in our schools, you’ve lost your right to call yourself “pro-life” We fight over the 2nd amendment, abortion, hate crimes, health care, access to education, and more. Imagine we could break out a whiteboard and start a process of proactive problem-solving.

Don’t like abortion? What leads to it? A quick list comes to mind; limited access to birth control, rape, incest, lack of knowledge. How about rather than take an approach of “Stop doing that!”, We look at solving the causes. As I look at that list, I don’t think that we should step in part way and say, what do we do with the results of incest and rape? How can we punish the uneducated teen who didn’t realize they could get pregnant? Proactive problem-solving.

I’m not claiming there is a quick or easy solution to any of them, but if we keep jumping to the symptoms without ever addressing the conditions that got us there, we never will come to a consensus or have a lasting impact on the undesired results.

The individual who was raped or child who was a victim of incest is not the problem, nor should they be punished further for other’s actions.

Map backwards.

Seems to me that the rapist and the family member perpetrating incest, which by the way is also rape, are closer to the problem. I am the last person to give either of those categories a break, BUT I also know the research, and they are not usually the first link in a chain that results in actions such as that. They too may have been raped, abused, molested. Not an excuse but also less likely to respond to “Stop doing that!”

As a nation, we need to adopt a problem solving or behavioral approach to these issues. How about addressing the mental health of abused children so we can prevent that abuse from being visited on the next generation? Or talking about these taboo subjects and bringing issues like incest into the light rather than putting all the responsibility on the victims and none of the consequences on the perpetrators or the conditions that allowed it.

Abortion is not the point at which we should be addressing the problems in our country. How about comprehensive sex education in combination with easily-accessible, affordable birth control? Do we only target the result or target what got us there?

Don’t want someone to infringe on your 2nd Amendment right?

Map backwards.

If students weren’t being shot or terrorized while they are supposed to be learning, no one would be worried about you being able to have a weapon in your gun safe. You may be a responsible gun owner who owns them for sport and has attended appropriate training. You aren’t someone who may walk into a school with a gun one day, but the person who will, needed mental health support long before that day. Or they may have been raised in an environment that lacked understanding of those different from themselves, frightened by otherness. Perhaps our education system is not allowing for time and resources to address the social-emotional learning that is quickly disappearing in favor of instructional minutes.

As an educator, if I spent all day saying, “Stop doing that!” and that was my only means of classroom management, then students would never learn to respect and value others. Never learn that there is pride in being the best version of yourself and working hard. America needs to try some proactive problem-solving. Access to medical care, positive attitudes toward accessing mental health care, educating and valuing the whole child, not just the parts that might perform well on a standardized test, would be closer to a beginning.

Proactive problem solving would have us address what got us to the results we are currently battling over not just the undesired behaviors we are judging each other for.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Becky Jones

Changing it all up by leaving public school education to pursue writing, mental wellness, and share strategies.