Addressing Bullying & Helping Special Needs Kids

Addressing Bullying & Helping Special Needs Kids

Tammy Geiger, a specialist who works with special needs children at Lake County Schools, shares her story about using Leaps lessons to change the bullying behavior of a student who was targeting a deaf person. The bully is known to be a member of a gang. After intervention with Leaps lessons, the student went home and started to teach himself sign language, unprompted, in order to apologize and to build a friendship with the deaf student. Sometimes the outcome is even better than expected. 

This school uses Leaps for

  • Response to Intervention (RTI)
  • Lessons on Bullying
  • Classroom Behavior Support
  • Data Collection 
  • Reporting

“I’ve learned that with consistent use of the Leaps lessons, even students with the most demanding behaviors and conduct can also be reached. We just recently had a student who has known gang affiliations. After some Leaps lessons, he realized he was targeting and abusing a deaf person. He felt bad and went home and started, independently, teaching himself sign language to communicate with the person he was bullying. He said he felt bad about what he had done and he wanted to learn how to communicate with them.”


Special Needs Teacher

Profoundly Simple

Profoundly Simple

I grew up in West Texas in the 70s and early 80s.

West Texas is comprised of long stretches of desert broken only by oil or cotton fields. The land is harsh and unforgiving. The temperatures are extreme and the heat can be almost unimaginable. And even though there is a lot of oil in West Texas, most of us lived in families that worked in the oil fields for nominal wages. It was a hard life in many respects, because the work was hard and the financial rewards were minimal. But West Texas had and continues to have something very special. In fact, it has something that I wish would spread across the rest of Texas and then onto the rest of the country.

What is it that West Texas has, besides rattle snakes and armadillos? It has nice people.

Now this might sound simple, and every community in every state across the nation will boast nice people. But there is something special about a place that has nice people who make a point to be nice to strangers. You see, it is easy to be nice to a friend. It is easy to be nice to a co-worker. It is even easy to be nice to the person sitting next to you on a plane that you do not know. But this isn’t what I am talking about.

Growing up in West Texas I learned that if you saw someone with a flat tire on the side of the road, the proper thing to do was to pull over and volunteer to help. If you saw someone walking towards a door that you were near, you opened it and held it for them. If someone of a similar or older age asked a question you responded with a “sir” or a “ma’am”. You didn’t do it out of subservience. You did it to be nice.

I had the real privilege of spending time with quite a few educators and administrators in Miami this past week. These educators are a part of one of the largest school district in the country. The Miami-Dade School District boasts more schools and a larger budget than many of our smaller states. This behemoth of a district has opportunities and issues very unique to a large urban district that is in one of the true melting pot areas of our country.

I was in Miami because I was speaking to folks and training them on behavioral techniques, and specifically on Leaps. Through multiple sessions I would ask what the common issues are that they all deal with, and I heard the same responses that I hear across the country. My students don’t listen… Parents don’t support us… I don’t have enough time… I don’t have enough resources. These are the same laments I hear in the biggest districts in the large cities and in the small districts in the small towns. These problems transcend size and resources and are common for all educators.

But as I was listening to the educators telling me about their daily trials, one said something that really struck me.

She simply said: We just need our kids and our teachers to remember what it meant to be nice.

Nice is a simple sounding concept and in fact it’s a pejorative in some athletic circles that deride niceness as term of weakness. But that wasn’t the nice she was speaking of.


I asked her to expound and she thought for a minute and said something so simple that it became profound. She said, “If we can convince our kids, and ourselves, to just be nice today, then tomorrow would be so much easier.” At first I thought that this was a little too simple to pay too much attention to, so I moved on. But something gnawed on me and I kept hearing what she said to me, and I couldn’t figure out why it was still ringing in my ears… “If we can convince our kids, and ourselves, to just be nice today then tomorrow would be so much easier.”

This is simply too simple to mean anything. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how this simple little thought of hers was not only profound but was also prophetic. If you notice, she wasn’t lamenting the fact that kids today don’t have manners and don’t talk respectfully and don’t pay attention. Instead, she said that our kids, and ourselves, need to be nice.

I really thought about what she said, and the next day I had another full day of trainings and speaking engagements with educators– so I decided to try something. I stood at the door and opened it for everyone that was walking into the room. I made a point of smiling and saying hello to every single individual that walked into the room. I made a point of walking to several people throughout the room and complimenting them on simple things.

Before I go any further, let me give a little honest disclosure. I am a very courteous person. I respond with a sir or a ma’am. I hold the door open. I make sure that the ladies walk through the door before me or my son. I put effort into being mannerly and courteous. But nice is a little outside my comfort zone. I am nice to people I know, but I am not an extrovert. I am not a “people person”. I do not want to strike up a conversation with a stranger, and I think because of this I have not put effort into being nice. Just simply being nice.

I watched the group that came in that I opened the door for and personally greeted. I watched them closely as they took their seats and I complimented them. I watched them as I smiled and put effort into making them feel welcomed. I watched them as I made eye contact when speaking to them and made them feel like there was no one on the earth more important to me in that minute than them.

And do you know what happened?

I did not have to call their group to order.

I did not have to ask them to be quiet so we could begin.


I did not have to ask them to turn their phones off so that it wouldn’t interrupt our session. Something rather remarkable happened in that group. I was intentionally nice to them, and they in return were unintentionally nice in response. I heard people answering questions with more “sirs” and “thank yous” than in all the previous sessions combined. I had people being more attentive and showing appreciation for what was being said than in any other session. I had more thank yous and handshakes at the end than in any other session.

Something profoundly simple yet simply profound occurred. A little effort spent being nice was repaid with lots of niceness in return.

I know that being nice will not cure the ills of the classroom or make all our kids act like little angels. I know that purposeful niceness will not always be repaid with niceness. But I did find that as I put effort into being nice I not only received niceness in return, I was more attentive to and more invested in the people I was being nice to. In other words, me being nice to other people made those other people more important to me.

Let me challenge you to try something: As simple as it sounds, put real effort into being nice to your students, your family, your friends, and your coworkers. Give it a try. Intentionally let someone else walk through the door first. Intentionally hold the door open. Intentionally smile and make someone else feel welcomed and important. See what this small investment buys you.

One of the truths about behaviors is that they have to be learned, practiced, enforced, and imprinted actively. They have to be seen and tried.

Give being nice a try and see what happens. It is so simple that it might just be the difference maker you have been looking for. Tags be nicechild developmentclassroom behaviorcourtesyeducationeducatorskindnesslife lessonsmaking a differencemannersmiami-dadepositive behavior changeself improvementsimplesocial emotional developmentsocial emotional learningsocial emotional skillsstudent successteachersteachingteaching tips Category Classroom BehaviorLife LessonsSelf-ImprovementTeaching

Take the Time

Take the Time

It is time for Halloween so obviously we need to talk about little ones and safety and costumes and the parent’s duties regarding proper Trick or Treat etiquette. Right? That would make sense and it is a topic that s worth exploring. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

This morning I came across this story:

Viral: Eldery Man Eating Lunch with Photo of Deceased Wife It is the story of an elderly man who was simply eating a hamburger at the local “In and Out” burger shop. At first glance, he is sitting by himself simply eating his burger. But a closer look shows that he has a picture on his table. It is an old picture of a relatively younger lady, and the picture is facing him. One of the restaurant patrons decided to walk over and ask about the photo, and comes to find out the man was not eating alone. He was eating with the photo, and more importantly, the memory of his deceased wife. A conversation reveals that the love of his life had passed away 5 years ago after 55 years together as husband and wife. The story is sweet and it is heartbreaking, and it is one that plays out like a beautiful love story, even if the love is now within the memories of the mind. But look a little closer. This is a story that also demonstrates an elderly man’s unbreakable bond to a woman he spent his life lifting up as his partner, his mate, and one of the primary reasons his life had meaning. That is a beautiful story. But there is another story as well. There is the story of a young man who sees this elderly man, sees the picture and takes the time to ask about the picture and hear the man’s story. The story within the story is that this beautifully tragic tale of love, loss and loneliness, and now the sharing of the story is happening because this young man takes the time to notice. He takes the time to ask. And then, most importantly, he takes the time to listen. Have you ever looked around and seen someone who was alone? Have you ever been in a restaurant and seen someone eating alone or been to a park and seen someone sitting alone? Have you ever noticed elderly folks who are watching life alone rather than experiencing it with someone? The story of the man who eats with his wife’s memory and photo every evening is a heartwarming tale, but I wonder how much he enjoyed being able to talk about his lovely wife and share the story of how they met and passionately affirmed how his love will never end. What a great story and what a shame it would be if someone had not asked about it and heard it and shared it. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people around me. Whether in an airport or in the stands for a football game or just taking a walk through the park, there are people everywhere. For many years I led the “live and let live” style of life which meant you go your way and I will go mine. But something changed the way I see that person sitting alone, especially if that person is elderly.

take the time

When my Papa had a stroke and lost the ability to effectively communicate, I watched as the people around him pulled away because they could not understand him. I watched as his symptoms put up barriers that most people were too uncomfortable trying to overcome. The sadness this created for my Papa was almost as debilitating as the stroke. When I realized what was happening, I started calling a couple of times a week and I would take the time to ask him a question or two, then I would sit back as he let a week’s worth of pent up communication frustrations com gushing out. In truth, I could not understand most of what he was saying, and he was not looking for me to provide any sort of wisdom or even feedback. He just needed someone to take a little time and listen. He needed someone to take the time to affirm that he had a voice, it could be heard, and it was worth spending a few minutes to listen to. Since that time, I have started noticing the person who is alone. What I have learned is that sometimes the traveler wants to be alone, but I have never had anyone react to a friendly “Hello. How are you?” in a negative manner. In fact, I have heard some great stories. I have heard some long and boring stories. I have seen smiles and I have even seen some tears. But the one thing I have seen every time is a smile. Someone listened. Someone heard. Someone took a little time. And when someone take the time and listens to you and affirms your worth, then you have to smile. In my last blog post I challenged you to just be nice. The challenge was to give nice a real effort and a real try. Please accept this challenge and take it one step farther. Find the elderly person or even the younger person who is alone and take the time to say hello. Ask them how they are doing. Strike up a conversation and then prepare yourself to be the listener. Yes, this will cost you 5-10 minutes. Yes, you are taking the chance that they tell you to go away. And yes, you are possibly opening yourself up to someone who will talk your ear off. But you are also taking a chance on hearing some beautiful story. You are taking the chance to hear of a life’s adventures as that life nears its fulfillment. And yes, you are taking the chance of making someone feel affirmed and worthy and alive.

Memories can be a beautiful thing but when all you have are memories then the present can be very lonely. There are just too many people in this world for anyone to have to feel alone. Maybe we can take nice, add listening to it and make loneliness a lot less consuming. Who knows, maybe you will hear the next story that brings tears to the eyes of millions of people who click to read of the man who dines with his wife’s memories. Someone needs to dig for that gold and then share that story. And all it takes is a simple, “Hello. How are you?”

Thankful for Thanksgiving: A Humble Top 10

Thankful for Thanksgiving: A Humble Top 10

It is so hard to believe that Thanksgiving is upon us. Even though the weather turned cold and the days have definitely gotten shorter, it just hasn’t quite felt like the holiday season yet. But I am not worried. Between long-basting a ham and the smell of stuffing and turkey and pies and the sound of football and family – the holidays are almost here.

It would be very easy to spend my time today writing about all that I have to be thankful for. After all, I am married to a wonderful woman, we have 3 healthy kids who are the center of our world and who we adore (because they are all very adorable). We live in Austin, which is one of the best cities in the greatest nation on this planet. We have a faith that gives us hope and a love that sustains when times seem difficult. I have MUCH to be thankful for. But I want to think about something a little different that deserves our thanks.

With each year that passes, I am seeing more and more clearly that the things in this life that really matter are not measured in dollar signs or in social standing. The accomplishments that make me smile have nothing to do with fiscal attainment or back-pats from other people. In fact, the things that really make me smile don’t even belong to me.

I actually challenged myself to keep track of things that made me happy this past week and to make a Top 10 list of those things that made me smile or laugh. I challenged myself to really pay attention to the things that made me truly happy. Here’s my top 10 list:

  1. My oldest daughter sank 2 free throws with 3 seconds left to ice the game last night. It could have been the MVP of the Superbowl, World Series, and NBA Finals all in the same year and I could not have been happier than I was at the end of that preseason girls basketball game in the BCS gymnasium played in front of about 100 people.
  2. My youngest daughter met Jon Godwin from Duck Dynasty and got his autograph. Watching her light up and smile and act shy and then talk to him really made me smile.
  3. During church on Sunday we sang “How Great Thou Art” and it was one of those moments when I was singing and I closed my eyes and I felt true peace. It wasn’t the quality of the singing or any new revelations from an old song. It was just a moment when I felt complete in my faith and it mattered to me.
  4. I laughed out loud during last week’s 200th episode of “Supernatural”. It was silly. It was goofy. And I laughed. Is there anything better then a surprise laugh?
  5. Saturday my wife and I were getting ready for a fundraiser for our school and she told me that she was proud of me. Just a few simple words and I was walking on air.
  6. My son aced his English test. He had been struggling for a few weeks and he really studied and he did it. He had a look and tone of pride that was exceeded only by mine.
  7. My 4 year old nephew stays with us most weekends and he demonstrated his version of “twerking” for us. I thought I was going to hurt myself I laughed so hard. Good grief, is there anything funnier than a child?
  8. I received an e-mail from a lady who likes my company’s offerings and she was so complimentary and so genuinely nice in her e-mail that it made me feel proud.
  9. I went to lunch with a friend last week and we tried Korean food. I ordered a pot of spicy seafood and it was unbelievable. I ate every bite and I did not offer to share. My afternoon that day was a little lazy but there was a smile on my face!
  10. It turned cold here this past week and I went out on the porch at 4:00 in the morning and sat and just watched the leaves blowing off the trees and listened to the wind and sat in silence for about an hour. Moments of silence, moments of contemplation, moments of discernment are moments of gold.

So there you have it. A Top 10 list that was kept with the intent of finding those moments and those people and those things that bring about happiness that make me want to give thanks. What I found were people and thoughts and emotions and contentment. Oddly, none of my moments brought me wealth or furthered my popularity. None of my moments padded my portfolio or gave me anything tangible beyond memories and recollections.


Yet as I looked back on my list, and there were lots of other things that happened that made my list, what I realized is that I would not trade one of these moments or words or feelings or thoughts for anything. I would not trade the pride I felt for my daughter for a new car. I would not trade the kind words from my wife for cash. I would not trade a moment of spiritual clarity for any level of popularity. These moments were free of charge and free to be replicated, but none can ever be replaced.

So this year, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to love and be loved. I am thankful that I can be proud of others and honestly want more for them than I do myself. I am thankful that laughing for a moment can ease the worry of a day. I am thankful that quiet still exists. I am thankful for not being alone. I am thankful because I should be.

We have a week until Thanksgiving. Challenge yourself to make a list of the things that really make you happy this week. See how many are tied to material versus emotional. I am guessing your smiles will be tied to the things in life that are free.

Now that I have taken the challenge and figured out the things that are making me happy I am going to take the next step and go back to those things and, whenever possible, I am going to make sure they know they made me happy. Just think, I might end up on their list of things that made them happy!

Reclaiming Our Classroom

Reclaiming Our Classroom

How do we combat a pop-culture that is predicated on an immediacy of gratification and an assignment of self-worth that is based more on style than substance?  How do we make sure our kids are developing in a way that gives them an opportunity to relate to more than a screen?  How do we make sure our kids are growing and developing socially with the ability to gain both a sense of self-worth and community accountability and responsibility?  How do we make sure our kids are developing emotionally so that they understand that work and failure, then overcoming failure to eventually succeed are much more likely in life than quick and immediate success?  How do we insure our kids are truly developing?  We do it purposefully.

Social and emotional education is in many ways very natural.  Teachers are constantly redirecting inappropriate behaviors while teaching actions and words that are classroom acceptable.  But these incidental and incremental social and emotional trainings are no longer enough.  Think about the barrage of information on our kids that is constantly streaming redefined values and words and deeds that run contrary to who they should grow to become.  Incidental and incremental social and emotional training will not counter these social influencers.  They will also not be enough to insure your classrooms are rightfully defined from a social expectation and therefore behavioral standpoint.  These incremental and incidental trainings will not be enough to make sure your students are emotionally growing and coping with the stressors of friends, media, family, and school. 

It is time to reclaim classrooms and develop the core social and emotional skills necessary to make our kids teachable students and capable classmates.  It is time to intentionally and purposefully teach, measure and report the social and emotional development of our students.