Behavior Today (CCBD Newsletter)

May 2016 31 (1)


CCBD Professional Development Committee Partnering with TECBD!

The CCBD Professional Development Committee is proud to partner with the Teacher Educators for Children with Behavioral Disorders (TECBD) Conference to offer exciting new programming at TECBD this year.  TECBD will be held at Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe, AZ October 20-22, 2016.  The keynote for this year's conference is CCBD member, Greg Benner.

  • NEW this year: TECBD will offer Saturday professional development sessions for teachers for only $35 (or included in your registration if you attend the full conference). If you live in the Tempe, AZ area (or want to take a road trip), please join us for sessions on systematic screening of behavior, behavior management strategies, and problem solving for effective classroom management.
  • The CCBD President's Luncheon with feature our incoming president, Kathleen Lynne Lane.  We have lots of exciting things planned for this session, including community guest performances and the work of other CCBD researchers and practitioners.  Stay tuned for more information!
  • TECBD will also offer expanded opportunities for Type 2 BACB CEUs for only $5 a unit.
  • Everyone's favorite CCBD t-shirts also will be available at the conference.

For more information visit:
Interested in presenting? The call for papers is open now until August 1, 2016


Capturing Conversations from Leaders in the Field

A Conversation with Mary Margaret Kerr  

Teagarden, J., Zabel, R., & Kaff, M., Kansas State University


The Janus Project has been an ongoing oral history project, now in its 11th  year. The project took its name from the Roman god Janus, who was believed to have two faces so he could look both forward and backward at the same time.  The project continues to be sponsored by Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders (MSLBD) and was charged with collecting and disseminating the thoughts of the leaders of the field educating children with emotional/behavioral disorders.

Each participant is asked to describe their professional career, to identify people and events that have influenced the field, to reflect on the current state of the field and what the future may hold, and to offer their advice to persons entering the field.  These conversations are collected in video format and disseminated through the MSLBD website:

What follows are excerpts from a 2012 conversation with Dr. Mary Margaret Kerr.  Dr. Kerr is Professor and Chair of Administrative and Policy Studies, Professor of Psychology in Education, and Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh. Throughout her academic career, Dr. Kerr has worked in urban school districts, where her focus has been the improvement of services for students with emotional and behavioral problems.  This article reflects some of Dr. Kerr’s advice to those entering the field. 

The following is an excerpt drawn from the complete conversation with Mary Margaret Kerr which was published in the journal Intervention in School and Clinic (Teagarden, J., Zabel, R., & Kaff, M., 2015)

* * * * *

JANUS: What advice would you offer those just entering the field?

Kerr:  Well, as you all know, my general advice is live healthy, use sunscreen, seat belts, don’t text and drive, have a good doctor and tell them the truth, the same advice I would give to my adult children. I think there is a tendency, especially in this kind of work, towards unhealthy habits. So, I say this with some humor, but I mean it quite seriously. It’s a field where people quickly exit because they can’t handle it. So, I think that the healthier that someone is coming into this field, and certainly, this generation has the capacity for that - mentally healthy, physically healthy - I think that it’s very, very important and often overlooked in training programs.

The other advice I would have is that this is a very personal field. You really have to know yourself deeply. We don’t do a lot of deep supervision of the sort that I grew up on. I was videotaped every time I taught. Those videotapes were analyzed every week with me. That kind of supervision just doesn’t exist. So, I think that if you don’t have the ability to be observed and lots of good supervision then you really need to dig deep to find professionals who can help you analyze yourself. You have to be in touch with your feelings. You’ve got to be able to manage an emotion and regulate those feelings in order to work with such a volatile population.

That being said, if you like it, there’s no career better. It’s intriguing, it’s full of really smart people. Behavioral disorders in some ways are disabilities that kids can actually shed if we do our work very well and very efficiently and not waste their time and their lives. So it’s a very hopeful field to get into, in an ironic sort of way.

JANUS: What would you suggest for those who are going to be preparing teachers?

Kerr:  In terms of people who are going to prepare teachers, young professors be sure to get the right job. I think a match is very important. There’s been a lot of pressure to apply to the top tier schools. The competition is ferocious, the tenure pressures are enormous, and it’s not the place for everyone, nor should it be. I think if people have a deep commitment to teaching, that is nothing to be ashamed of and they should seek those professorate positions where they can really focus on teaching. If, on the other hand, they were well prepared and really see a research career and that’s where they truly want to focus, go for those positions. But one is not better than the other.

Once you’re in those kinds of positions, you’ve got to find people who’ll tell you the truth. It’s really hard. You’ve got to find editors who’ll say, “You know what? This writing is really bad but I’ll help you get it right.” You need to surround yourself with mentors who will be with you on your worst day and your best day and will celebrate with you, but will also buy you a cup of coffee and say, “You know what? It’s not the end of the world that your manuscript was rejected or that your student evaluations weren’t terrific.” I’ve really benefited from mentors far more than they’ve benefited from having me in their midst. I really think that’s the key. You don’t do this work by yourself. It’s getting harder. The stakes are greater and the competition is tougher than it ever was for any of us.

So, I think find the right position that’s good for you, and your family, and the people that support you. You are not your job, you don’t have to be your job, it’s okay to have what this generation calls balance. We didn’t know what that was, but I admire this group for seeking balance. On the other hand, it takes a lot of work. You’ve got to be ready to do more work than other people around you if you’re going to succeed, because it just takes a lot of time.

* * * * *

Mary Margaret’s advice and commitment to children and to those who make it their life’s mission to make things better for children continues to provide an inspiration.  The complete conversation with Mary Margaret can be viewed at the following URL:

Upcoming issues of Behavior Today will include excerpts from conversations with George Sugai, Jeffrey Sprague, and others.



Teagarden, J., Zabel, R. & Kaff, M., (2015). Life as the Middle Child: A Conversation with Mary Margaret Kerr. Intervention in School and Clinic, 51 (2) 126-130.


The Role of the Teacher of Students with E/BD

in Collaborating with Other Agencies

By Bev Johns

Jesse, who is in your class, is on probation for a robbery that he was involved in two years ago.  Bethany, another of your students, is involved with the Department of Children and Family Services, and is in foster care.  Lyndon is receiving ongoing counseling services through the local mental health agency. The list of the outside agencies we may work with goes on.

In our classrooms, students may have involvement with multiple agencies because of the nature of their disabilities.  This is the fifth in a series of articles about the important role of teachers of students who work with students with emotional/behavioral disorders.   We have focused on the role of the teacher in the evaluation process, the role of the teacher in the IEP, the role of the teacher in building relationships, and the role of the teacher in providing specially designed instruction.   We now need to look at why it is important for all teachers of students with E/BD to work cooperatively with other agencies that provide support services to our students.

With our students, we can’t work in a vacuum.  We have to work together with our students who need all the positive support they can receive. Our students need multiple community resources. Their families need multiple resources.  They may need wrap-around for a variety of needs. 

Collaborating Rather than Criticizing

We may find ourselves criticizing those agencies because we wish they could do more or we want a quicker response from them.  We need to learn to recognize the bureaucratic and financial restraints they face. In today’s world, many of these agencies have had their budgets cut and they are doing as much as they can with the limited resources they have.  I can remember how I had been criticizing the Department of Children and Family Services in our local area because I didn’t believe they were doing enough to combat truancy in our area.  I was sitting down with a local caseworker one day and she told me that their policies prevented them from doing any more than they were doing.  I stopped criticizing and instead brainstormed with the caseworker about how we could help a particular student. 

Years after one of the best Dept. of Children and Family Services caseworkers that I ever worked with retired, I was telling her how much I had appreciated all of her work.  She admitted to me that she had become an alcoholic while she was a caseworker because of the tremendous stress the job entailed.  It caused me to reflect on how hard her job really was.

Referrals to other agencies:

Teachers of students with emotional/behavioral disorders are resourceful individuals. We are used to seeking out services that go beyond our means to provide.  When our students are not receiving the resources they need, we reach out to other agencies that might be able to assist. We have to assess the additional resources that are available, talk with the parents, talk with our administration, and talk with our social workers and find what other agencies can provide the services we cannot  We seek permission from the families to get them assistance.  We can’t solve all the problems they face; but we learn who else can help. 

When our students are being abused or neglected, we report it with the intent of protecting them and getting the students the help they need.

Communication and Confidentiality:

Teachers of students with emotional/behavioral disorders know when signed releases of information are required before we can speak with other agencies about our students.  We know the mental health laws in our individual states and provinces and what we can share with those agencies and what they can share with us.  We also respect our students’ rights to privacy if they are on probation or they are in foster care. I remember hearing the story about a probation officer who went to a school to see a student and the teacher announced in front of the class that:  “Bill, your probation officer is here to see you.”  This was clearly a violation of the student’s right to privacy. 

We communicate positive efforts of our students as well as communicating their needs.   I remember one day when one of my students had a good day and I told him I was going to call his Mother to tell her.  He responded:  “Can you call my probation officer too and tell her I had a good day.”  I responded:  “You bet.”

As part of our knowledge of the importance of positive reinforcement, we thank other agencies when they take an action that helps our students. This increases our working relationship with those individuals. They may not receive a lot of positive recognition for their work and we need to be the individuals who recognize them for all their efforts. They are more likely to keep helping us with the needs of a particular student as well as helping us when we request it for another student.

To effectively work with our students, we need the services that other agencies can provide and they need our support in our common goal to provide appropriate services to our students who need those services the most.

Smart Seat


Smart Seat is a great app used to manage a classroom.  Smart Seat is $4.99 and is designed for an iPhone and iPad with iOS 8.0 or later.  This app allows teachers the ability to create seating charts with desks on a grid.  Additionally, the attendance tab allows teachers to easily record attendance by tapping on absent, tardy, or excused students.  The information can then be exported or generated in a PDF version.  A PDF version of seating charts, with student photos, can easily be used by substitute teachers.  Student information, notes, and photos can all be saved easily in one place, and students can simply be moved around by dragging and dropping.  There is also a tab for choosing students at random for class participation to ensure the same students are not getting chosen all the time.  Teachers can better manage their classrooms using Smart Seat!

Dear Ms. Kitty:

I am a special educator of students with behavior disorders/challenging behaviors. I was recently hired to work in an urban school where the students are drastically different than I am. More specifically, I will be predominantly working with minority students from lower socioeconomic environments. How do I relate to my students in a better way?

~ ‘Not Yet Culturally Competent’ in Chicago


Dear ‘Not Yet Culturally Competent’ in Chicago:

You asked a wonderful question and thank you for reaching out!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines diversity as “the condition of having or being composed of differing element” (2014).  It is imperative to understand that all persons in our society are diverse and finding respect for these differences make us better practitioners.  In fact, the foundations of our society encourage us to talk respectfully to who hold different backgrounds than we do (Smith, 2012). 

There are various categories that make people and our students in society diverse.  Categories of diversity may include: (a) ethnicity, (b) socioeconomic status, (c) spiritual and religious beliefs, (d) sexual preferences, (e) intellectual ability levels and (f) geographical regions.  Some subgroups also may include educational background, occupation, and even levels of parent’s income.  Some researchers have even labeled these categories as visible (e.g., race, gender) and invisible (e.g., spiritual and religious beliefs, sexual preferences) diversity and encouraged educators to celebrate the differences of the diversity to promote democracy and empathy in our society.

You mentioned that your students were “drastically different” than you are. I challenge you to a few quests to immerse yourself in the your students’ environment which may help better understand your students’ differences:

  1. Visit a student’s place of worship
  2. Walk in your students’ neighborhoods, libraries, playgrounds et cetera
  3. Chat (informally) with your students’ parents, grandparents, or guardian about your students
  4. Shop in your students’ grocery stores
  5. Ride the city bus
  6. Role play with your students to learn more about their interests, families, and culture
  7. Eat or cook your students’ favorite foods
  8. For your students with challenging behaviors, consider culture as a part of these behaviors


After you have completed one or more of these tasks, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on these experiences.  In this time, consider the similarities and differences between your culture and theirs. These reflections may facilitate your commitment to social justice, cultural competence, and equity in the classroom.  Thank you for all you do for our students with exceptionalities!

~ Ms. Kitty


Ms. Kitty has worked with children and youth with challenging behaviors for nearly 20 years. She has educated students with behavior disorders in several different states and taught students from all grades, except 7th grade. Ms. Kitty has also earned her undergraduate, master’s, and doctorate degrees in special education, specifically emotional disabilities and behavior disorders.

Please contact Ms. Kitty about any questions you

have about your students in your classroom

Thank you!