How do you develop an effective behavior management plan?
Page 8: Crisis Plan
Once teachers have developed a statement of purpose, rules, procedures, and consequences, they should consider how they will address severe behavioral situations, such as when a student is out of control, potentially self-injurious, or possibly harmful to others. Although such behaviors are relatively infrequent, their physical and emotional by-products can be intense and exhausting. To more effectively address these types of situations when they do occur, teachers should develop a crisis plan—a preplanned and well-thought-out set of strategies for obtaining immediate assistance in the event of severe behavioral situations. When teachers have such a plan in place, they are more likely to:
- Respond effectively to the situation
- Gain control of the situation
- Take charge of their emotions and avoid escalating the situation
- Experience less anxiety, fear, or frustration related to handling the crisis
Ms. Amry’s Behavior Crisis Plan
- Call the office. If not possible, send a student to the office with a crisis behavior card.
- Send the rest of the class to Mrs. Dawkins’ room.
- If possible, help the student in crisis to reestablish self-control.
- Bring the rest of the students back to class once the crisis has been addressed.
- Notify parents of incident.*
* Depending on school policy, this step might be completed by a school administrator.
To be effective, a crisis plan should address the four questions listed below. As you examine Ms. Amry’s behavior crisis plan to the right, take particular note of how it addresses each of these questions.
- Who will seek assistance?
- Who will be notified?
- What do you want the rest of the students to do during the crisis?
- What will you do once the crisis is over?
Note: Be sure to check whether your school has established procedures for addressing such a crisis (e.g., who to notify in a crisis situation, where the other students should go, teacher guidelines for physical intervention).
It is important that teachers understand that a student in a crisis situation may have little to no control over her behavior, and the precursors to a crisis do not always occur in the classroom. Still, it is critical that teachers recognize what a student is experiencing during a crisis, what specific steps can deescalate crisis situations, how to access immediate assistance from colleagues, and how to manage crisis events when they occur. For more information on how teachers can prevent a student’s behavior from escalating and can avoid a behavior crisis altogether, view the following IRIS Modules:
- Addressing Disruptive and Noncompliant Behaviors (Part 1): Understanding the Acting-Out Cycle
- Addressing Disruptive and Noncompliant Behaviors (Part 2): Behavioral Interventions
Michael Rosenberg, a researcher and expert in behavioral interventions, explains why teachers should develop a behavior crisis plan to address out-of-control behavior. Next, KaMalcris Cottrell further discusses the need to do so.
Michael Rosenberg, PhD
Professor, Special Education, SUNY New Paltz
Professor Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University
School Behavior Support
Click here to develop your own crisis plan. Keep in mind that your school may have guidelines in place for developing behavior crisis plans. If so, make sure your crisis plan aligns accordingly.
Returning to School
As students return to school, teachers may have more students in their classrooms who have experienced trauma related to the ongoing effects of the pandemic on their home and family circumstances (e.g., death of a loved one, food insecurity, parental unemployment, divorce). Trauma, which may impact a student’s self-regulation, arousal, social skills, learning, and focus, can lead to everything from academic difficulties to behavioral crisis situations. Teachers should understand how trauma negatively impacts learning and behavior and should recognize the signs of trauma in their students. Below are some practices teachers can use to support students who are experiencing trauma.
- Collaborate with students and families — Collaborating with the family can help the teacher understand what the student is going through; create a safe, supportive environment; and prevent crisis situations from developing.
- Build relationships — A secure, positive relationship with a teacher can safeguard a student from the effects of trauma.
- Have a consistent routine — Such a routine creates a sense of safety and predictability. If changes in the routine do become necessary, take care to prepare students for them in advance. When students know what to expect, they are more likely to relax and focus on instruction.
- Help students learn to identify and regulate their emotions — Teach students strategies like deep breathing, stretching, mindfulness, and movement to help better manage their emotions and behaviors.
- Promote empowerment of students — Whenever possible, offer students choices to help them feel in control of their situation. Highlight their skills and talents to combat self-doubt and negative feelings about themselves.
- Interrupt negative thinking — Help students break a negative cycle of thinking with a distracting activity (e.g., assisting a peer, running an errand, reading a book).
- Don’t take negative behavior personally — Remain calm and objective and recognize that inappropriate behavior may stem from trauma. Let students know that you are always there for them.
Unfortunately, childhood trauma is quite prevalent. Data from 2016 indicate that 45% of children have had at least one experience that can lead to trauma and have harmful aftereffects on multiple domains of a child’s life. This percent may be even greater now due to circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on identifying and addressing childhood trauma, view the following resources.