Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chapter 22: The Agreement Bridge

Compare and contrast the Agreement Bridge with any counseling technique you have used, or have heard about, for dealing with a challenging student.

Pages 139-152
Full credit: 25 WBT Certification Points
Partial credit: 10 WBT Certification Points


  1. When reading this chapter, I was reminded of a behavior intervention plan (BIP) I implemented with a student that chose to throw textbooks at his neighbors when asked to complete and assignment. To avoid this dangerous situation, I began by finding out what his interests were, and then created a game that we could play together to encourage better behavior. In comparison, both the BIP and the Agreement Bridge are set up as games, but the amount of quality teacher and student interaction varies. Both situations include a time for the student and teacher to communicate, but the counseling is done primarily by the teacher in the BIP. The BIP contrasts with the Agreement Bridge where the teacher and student work together more and both have an equal voice.

    This particular student enjoyed wrestling, so we created a (poster board) wrestling mat. When he met a behavior goal, he was allowed to use a spinner to move spaces on the mat and earn points (2 points for a takedown etc.). His goal was to be able to play the game several times per day (each time he met a behavior goal) and earn points during the “matches”. Then, he was able to purchase a token prize at the end of the day or week with his accumulated points. This did work well for a while with him. I saw improvement when reflecting upon that student’s behavior and our behavior plan, but it was a plan that took a lot of preparation and constant energy to maintain and document.

    In contrast, the Agreement Bridge appears to be something that would be quick to prepare, and would require minimal time to maintain. This seems to be much more efficient than having to make specified games for each child. As Coach Biffle points out, the Agreement Bridge can address a variety of behavior issues and “The remarkable flexibility of the game even allows it to be adapted to dealing with groups of students.” (140)

    Another difference I noted was that the Agreement Bridge provides an opportunity for the teacher to get to know the student much better, probably giving much needed enlightenment regarding the child’s behavior choices. The “Hello” step would be a way to make a positive connection before approaching the issue at hand. The “Problem” step might prove to be very informative. Many times, the student isn’t clear about what the true issue is. The “Swap” step would allow both the teacher and the student to view the issue from another perspective. That would be beneficial for both parties; teachers often forget to do this. The “Smart and Foolish Choices” steps would help both the teacher and the student look for creative and workable solutions. The teacher may be surprised to find out that the student actually views some “foolish” choices as “smart” choices. In my opinion, the “Change” step is one of the most important. When both parties are willing to put egos aside and make personal changes to help create a working relationship, both the teacher and student will benefit.

    Comparatively, I think the Agreement Bridge is much more focused on hearing the child’s point of view and helping them take part in their own problem solving. It does not include bribing the student to make improvements like many other discipline plans, but instead offers them a way to negotiate and plan their own Agreement Contract that they feel is fair. I agree with Mr. Biffle’s statement “Too often we want kids to adapt to a system that refuses to adapt to them.” (144) This game, unlike the other behavior modification game, provides the student an opportunity to develop life skills that will help them succeed in a real world situation.

    1. Michelle,
      Excellent post on the comparison of these two counseling techniques. Here are 25 points and a 5 point Bonus!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The Agreement Bridge is Level Seven and the highest level of the Scoreboard. It is used to unite challenging students and the teacher for collaborative problem solving. The Agreement Bridge utilizes a game format and the players (teacher and student) take turns choosing a square on the game board. The topics of The Agreement Bridge are:

    HELLO: Each player asks the other player anything about his life that he’d like to know but neither player can talk about the problem at hand. Hello can be used multiple times during the game to diffuse situations where emotions run high.
    PROBLEM: Each player details the problem from his or her point of view while the other player listens. If questions are asked it is to clarify what the player has said and is to be done in a non-threatening way.
    SWAP: Each player swaps markers and describes the problem from the other player’s vantage point. The teacher usually will have to model for the student the skill of seeing a problem from another person’s view.
    SMART CHOICES: Each player lists as many smart choice solutions to the problem as he can and explains why each strategy was chosen.
    Foolish Choices: Each player describes as many foolish solutions to the problem as he can. This often leads to a few laughs and allows the two players to relax. The student may also begin to see why some of the choices he has made in the past fall into this category.
    CHANGE: Each player tells what changes he or she is willing to make to solve the problem. This requires both players to make changes. Regardless of how much a teacher feels it is the “student’s” problem, The Agreement Bridge will show areas that a change in the teacher’s behavior may certainly increase the success of the student’s progress. It may be as simple as making more time to listen to the student each day.

    The goal of the game is for both players to participate in a structured discussion arriving at an agreement that resolves the problem separating them. There are two important points to stress about any behavior plan. First, any solution to a school problem is going to fail if the student does not buy into it. Secondly, the point of The Agreement Bridge is not to punish students who are troubled but rather to teach them the life skills of negotiation and compromise to solve future problems. This is key to the importance of The Agreement Bridge. Students who have behavior issues as children will not just grow into adults who practice negotiation and compromise in their relationships. It is critical for them to have the skills taught and modeled. The Agreement Bridge game can be played in a five to ten minute session or it can be played for longer periods of time for more involved problems. As the game progresses, each participant decides if he has made progress to move his markers closer together. Eventually the two come to an agreement and record it on the Agreement Contract in specific terms for easy evaluation and usually with a deadline. The goal is to have a simple agreement with no more than two agreements. The Agreement Bridge requires both the teacher and the student to be willing to make changes and it is used only after the previous six levels haven’t been successful in changing problem behaviors. Teachers probably won’t use The Agreement Bridge often but when there is the challenging student that hasn’t responded to previous strategies, this is an excellent tool to both change the student’s behavior and to teach him new life skills. As an added benefit, it will most likely give the teacher some valuable insight into working with troubled students in the future.

  4. The main contrast of The Agreement Bridge and almost all other strategies that I’ve encountered throughout the years is that most plans focus on extinguishing a behavior but not on teaching a behavior to replace the inappropriate behavior. Most programs rely on extrinsic motivators (e.g., candy or toys) that for some children can become problematic. These can actually interfere with the behavior program since the emphasis has shifted to gaining the “prize”. A typical behavior plan is developed by a teacher to extinguish a behavior that is driving her crazy in the classroom with little input from the child so there is little buy in on the part of the student. While The Agreement Bridge and other strategies share the goal of defining the behavior to be changed there are few similarities after that. I’m not familiar with a lot of counseling strategies but from the perspective of a teacher attempting to change behaviors in the classroom, I have never seen a more balanced approach to changing behavior by understanding the function of the behavior, modeling appropriate skills of negotiation and compromise while developing intrinsic motivation to accomplish the goals. There really is no comparison to other strategies and the contrast is an exciting plan that can be customized for each student.

    I'm sorry it's in two sections but it wouldn't let me submit all in the same document. :-(

  5. Kathy,
    Great explanation and comparison of the Agreement Bridge to other counseling techniques! Here are 25 points and a 5 point Bonus!

  6. In our school, we often use behavior contracts that are set up between the school counselor and/or our special education teacher who is also the chair person for our STAT (Student Teacher Assistant Team) team. The behavior contract and the Agreement Bridge both have the goal of changing a student’s behavior. The desired behavior is discussed by the adult and the student in both the contract and the Agreement Bridge. Also, in both, the desired behavior is tracked. These are about the only similarities that a behavior contract and the Agreement Bridge have in common.

    They do, however, have several differences. In a behavior contract, the student and adult discuss the behavior that needs to change and they come up with a plan to accomplish this. The adult usually does most of the talking. The behavior plan most often involves consequences for misbehavior and rewards for the desired behavior. It is usually the teacher who tracks the desired behavior and relates to the student how he is doing. The discussion on the tracking usually happens once or twice a week, or sometimes even less. In contrast, the Agreement Bridge allows for equal talking from the adult and the student. Both sides have a chance to tell their perspective of the problem. The adult is always the teacher, which is as it should be since she is the one who is dealing with the student. There are no consequences with the Agreement Bridge, and it is set up like a game, which takes away the negativity for the student. The student tracks her own behavior, and the student and teacher discuss the student’s progress daily. In addition, it is not only the student who changes a behavior. There are times when the teacher works on changing a behavior also, especially if it is the trigger for the student’s misbehavior.

    I find that the Agreement Bridge is much more respectful than a behavior contract. It also gives the teacher and the student ownership and builds on their relationship. I definitely think that this is the better way to go.

    1. Cheryl,
      The relationship that this level builds is so important. There has to be some connection or feeling of understanding for a challenging student to move forward. Good compare/contrast. Here are 25 certification points!

  7. At the beginning of this past school year I had a student who was very challenging. I was only a few months pregnant and eventually had to have a colleague step in when he became too violent for me. He would kick, scream, run away, throw things at me and his peers, bite me, punch me, and whatever else struck his fancy in the heat of the moment. I tried any and all reward and punishment plans that came to mind but was not successful. After thinking long and hard about his home life and how he reacted to people in the classroom, I realized this child needed one-on-one attention. I was only able to achieve calmness and focus from him when I worked with him alone and in close proximity. There were times where I taught the lesson from a chair with him on my lap to calm him down. Most of the time, I found that he just needed a warm hug. Needless to say, this student eventually found himself in a classroom that could better meet his needs since I could not devote all of my attention to him.
    I, unfortunately, do not have much experience with a variety of counseling techniques that can be used with challenging students. Students like the one mentioned above usually respond well to positive, one-on-one, meaningful and genuine interactions. I have not used an actual plan in the past but feel like I would be likely to use the Agreement Bridge when/if the toughest kid came to my classroom. It is positive, game-like, and produces skills to help this child throughout their life. Many of the toughest students have only become tough out of necessity. They are not fazed by peer pressure, stickers, or punishment. They secretly yearn for a meaningful relationships that validate them as a good human being. It seems to me that The Agreement Bridge helps build this relationship while also teaching the student how to appropriately handle their emotions. I especially value that this level allows the teacher to “exploit the game’s conversation structure”(143) in order to better understand the whole picture surrounding this student’s thinking. The Agreement Bridge is effective because it is specific, observable, and constructed by both parties. It addresses issues at the student’s pace and comfort level.
    I can appreciate that the Agreement Bridge is well structured and that each category has a purpose. Hello allows for open discussion without any mention of the problem. If the student is on Level 7, they must not have fully understood the perspective of the teacher in Level 6. Therefore, the Problem section is especially important because it allows both parties to express their point of view. Then to solidify the points of view and ensure that each party is heard, there is the Swap category. Smart Choices reiterates Rule 4: Make smart choices. Students then contrast the smart choices in the Foolish Choices section. These two sections offer an opportunity to be silly and have fun. The wrong behavior is no longer bad because it is now being used to better understand the correct behavior. Change is possibly one of the most important categories to me because it admits responsibility for lack of success from both parties. Often times we look at the student as the cause when in reality we play just as much of a role in the problem as they do. We create the classroom environment by our actions and choices. Many times, students are just reacting to our behavior whether it be positive or negative responses. Again, I hope not to have a very tough kid in the coming school year. However, I look forward to having the option of using Level 7 if it is needed.

  8. Jennifer,
    Well written post! Your dedication to a student's well-being is obvious in this essay! Here are 25 points and a 5 point bous!

  9. Honestly, the Agreement Bridge is unlike any other counseling technique I have ever used, observed, or heard of. In the past, I have dealt with several challenging students, and most “problem solving steps” offer short-lived solutions. For the past 15 years, I have taught on a team with three other teachers. One technique I have participated in is to meet with the individual student as a team. We have had parent/teacher/student conferences, too. Other strategies I have either used or heard of include the student meeting with the school counselor and creating behavior contracts. In one instance, a student also frequently met with the administrator to discuss behavior and progress. Looking at these strategies as a whole, they were all failed attempts at helping each challenging student. In all honesty, I can’t say any of them worked. Compared to the Agreement Bridge, attempts I have used and seen have only scratched the surface of dealing with a challenging behavior. How sad is that? I am really excited about having the Agreement Bridge as an option for dealing with challenging kids. The key to the success of the Agreement Bridge is building a strong, positive relationship between the teacher and the challenging student. Both the teacher and student learn personal facts about each other, and this lets the student know the teacher cares and is human, too. Unlike the other techniques, the Agreement Bridge is like a game; each part can be played, as many times as you wish, and this is appealing to kids. The “act-it-out” Swap part of the game board often brings laughter but also allows both participants to see the situation through the other person’s eyes. I like it because it is personal and non-intimidating. Students meet with the teacher one-on-one, and ultimately create specific, attainable goals, meeting frequently to discuss progress or play the game again. This is, by far, the best counseling technique I have ever heard of. I hope I don’t need it, but I’m certainly glad I have it as a tool.

    On a side note: I’m proud of the fact I make it a goal of mine to “know” my students. I learn their names within the first days of school, have them complete a student inventory about themselves during the first week, and have parents complete an assignment called, “Million Words or Less.” Let’s face it, teachers rarely get to know their students, and who better to tell us than their parents. Basically, the assignment says, “In a million words or less, tell me about your child.” I never thought about using all of this information as a way to help counsel a challenging student, and I think the inventory and letter could come in very handy when using the Agreement Bridge with a student.

    Melinda Sprinkle

    1. Melinda,
      Excellent comparison of behavior plans. Your strategy to "know" your students is great! The parent letters will definitely enhance the Home-School relationship! Here are 25 points and a 5 point Bonus!

  10. In times of high stress with our most challenging students, WBT comes to the rescue with another level (level 7) of the scoreboard. This level is in format of a game, a game that the teacher and the student play. Few resources are needed but change is what comes of this strategy.

    Resources Needed: ruler, two markers, two coins, two copies of Agreement Bridge game board, and an Agreement Contract.

    Process: The teacher and student sit across a table from each other. They begin by placing the Agreement Bridge game in front of them as well as a coin on each end of the ruler. The game board has the following words and steps:
    Hello: Talk about anything other than the behavior. Get to know the student/teacher at this time.
    Problem: Each person gets to describe the problem from his or her point of view. This is the time to see how each person sees the problem.
    Swap: Using the other person’s point of view, tell the problem in their eyes.
    Smart: Describe the smart choice that can be made about the problem.
    Foolish: Describe the foolish choice that can be made about the problem.
    Change: Tell what changes you are willing to make.
    During the game, each person takes turns going through the steps of the game. A ruler lies on the table in between with a coin lying at the ends of the ruler. As the teacher and student engage in dialog, when one person feels they are reaching closer to coming up with an agreement, they move their coin towards the opposite person. When both people have their coins touching, and they feel better about the situation, it is time to make an agreement that they will follow. An agreement statement will tell who the two people are and what each person will do to come to this agreement. A timeline will be set.

    Similar to behavior intervention plans, which I have completed, and ‘triaging’ with students before and after school, I have never used a program like this. Triaging is where the student checks in with a trusted adult to go over their goals when they are at risk. Behavior plans put in action the goals that the student and the teacher agree to work on to help the student become successful. Both are so small compared to the Agreement Bridge.

    Once again, we are seeing non-evasive discussions going on where a student and teacher are partnering together to come to a common goal. Both parties may decide to change things about the problem. However, the most important thing, in my mind, is that they see the other person’s perspective and make compromise. Compromise is a skill that counselors try to teach in conflict resolution.

    1. Krystal,
      Great post on the Agreement Bridge! Here are 25 points and 5 point bonus!

  11. The Agreement Bridge is similar to behavioral contracts I have seen teachers and counselors develop to bring about desired behavior.

    The Agreement Bridge and behavioral contracts are designed for the most troubled student, those who seem immune to any forms of punishment. However, the Agreement Bridge is set up between teacher and student collaboratively to solve behavioral problems. Behaviors may include conflicts between other students or the teacher, anger management, poor academics, poor attendance, and any other disruptive behavior. While behavioral contracts address the same behaviors, behavioral contracts are not collaborative. The ones I have seen were written by the teacher or guidance counselor, read to the students, and the student signs the contract. The student does not have any input.

    The Agreement Bridge is a flexible and entertaining way of finding solutions to problems that satisfy the teacher, as well as the student. Behavioral Contracts are not flexible, nor entertaining. They seem to be more authoritative and only satisfy the teacher. The student continues to misbehave because there is no dialogue between the teacher and the student. After the contract is signed, it is rarely looked at again.

    The Agreement Bridge is a game set-up between the teacher and the student. The two sit down at a table with a ruler in the middle of the table. The ruler represents the problem. The game allows for free dialogue between the student and the teacher. They both share ideas and concerns. Personal stories are swapped. Both describe the problem as they see it and discuss smart and foolish solutions. Eventually, student and teacher come up with a few solutions that can be written in a contract. Unlike teachers who write behavioral contracts for the behaviors they want to stop. There is no getting to know the student to see where he/she is coming from. This is an important component of the Agreement Bridge; students can see the behavior is being targeted and not them.

    The Agreement Bridge is potent tool for teachers to use either for short or long term counseling by teachers.

    1. Debora,
      Nice job! I like your comment, "...students can see the behavior is being targeted and not them." Here are 25 points for you!

  12. When thinking of counseling strategies I have used in my classroom, every technique centered around the teacher leading the discussion and the student answering questions. I would address the problem, ask the child why they were acting that way, maybe investigate a situation at home, and then discuss ways to change the problem. The student normally returned to their unwanted behavior within a few days to a week. I would then send a student for a one-on-one or a small group of students to the guidance counselor for a “Me Talk” session. Using this strategy, I always felt there was some piece missing that could really help get my students to change.
    I now know that missing piece is the Agreement Bridge because it allows students to work with the teacher to decide ways to problem solve! Coach stated in Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids, “Any solution to a school problem which is not endorsed by the student involved is likely to quickly fail” (p. 139). The agreement bridge is not a punishment but turns inappropriate behavior into a short, game-like discussion session. To play this game, the teacher needs “a ruler, two markers, two coins, two copies of the Agreement Bridge game board, and the Agreement Contract” (p. 140). The game board contains six boxes which will be addressed by both the teacher and the student.
    Hello: Discussion will be made about the person’s life outside of the problem being addressed.
    Problem: The teacher and the student will both discuss what they view as the problem.
    Swap: This is a role reversal which is visualized by the teacher and student swapping markers. The student will act as the teacher and discuss the problem. The teacher will act as the student and discuss the problem.
    Smart Choices: The teacher and student will take turns discussing the positive choices that can be made to solve the problem.
    Foolish Choices: The teacher and student will take turns discussing the foolish choices that can be made to solve the problem.
    Change: Both the teacher and the student will identify ways they can change to prevent the problem from occurring again.
    While playing the Agreement Bridge, if the players feel they are learning more about each other and making progress, they can move their marker towards each other. Once the markers are side by side, the teacher and student will create an Agreement Contract together. This contract must contain four specific details, “be specific, set a date, be open to renegotiate, and make no more than two agreements” (p. 147). While one game of Agreement Bridge might not solve all the student’s undesired classroom behaviors, the bond between teacher and student is strengthened.

    1. Laken,
      You have a great summary of the Agreement Bridge. It would have been good to have more detail in your comparison to other methods, as that's what the prompt was asking for. Here are 10 Certification Points for your well written summary!

  13. In my school, behavior contracts are often set up for a select few students who have not been able to make progress through other means. This is usually a last effort of our RtI team. They generally are set up through our guidance counselor or behavior specialist. From what I have seen, the students are rewarded for specific behaviors and penalized when the do not fulfill the behavior. Behaviors are usually dictated by the teacher involved and the student has very little say except may be pick the reward. Behavior is tracked and the student meets again after a while with the team and the contract is adjusted if need be.

    The Agreement Bridge is similar in that it is a contract between teacher and student after trying lots of different options to no avail. The main difference between our traditional behavior contract and the Agreement Bridge is the amount of talking done by the student. In our behavior contract system, the adults do most of the deciding and therefore most of the talking. In the Agreement Bridge, it’s equal AND it’s not all business. The student is put more at ease through the Hello phase where the conversation is anything but the misbehavior. This sharing of the talking burden is important because the teacher needs to hear about the student’s perspective.

    All in all, I think the Agreement Bridge is a more up to date version of a standard system. There is an overall feeling of respect. I can see how a student would be more invested in the Agreement Bridge since they helped create it rather than just agreed to it. I know my more difficult students need to feel that they are equal partners and the Agreement Bridge allows that to happen.

    Gwenn Weston

  14. Gwenn,
    Nice job comparing these behavior plans! Respect and partnership are key parts in the Agreement Bridge! Here are 25 points for you!

  15. The Agreement Bridge is a unique concept in building a relationship with a challenging student in a game-like platform. It very creatively creates an open, honest way for communication and involves the student collaborating with the teacher to problem solve. The Agreement Bridges is a very different approach, unlike anything I have ever used in the past.

    The way in which I have tried problem solving with a challenging student in the past was to hold “team meetings” in which all teachers, parents, student and sometimes administrators or guidance counselors’ meet to discuss the problems and to form a plan of action. Looking back at this method, it creates more tension between the student and the teachers because the student probably feels like he or she is being ganged up on. Unfortunately, I have not seen much success with this process and now I have a clearer understanding on why this was not effective.

    Using the Agreement Bridge, students are forced to see any issues from both sides, to work with the teacher in collaboratively solving the problem. It creates an environment where both the student and the teacher learn about each other on a more personal, “human” level. I am glad that I have this strategy to use this year and I feel more confident in my and my team’s ability in solving any problems with challenging students in a more positive manner.

    Amanda Martin

    1. Amanda,
      Good point noted on the difference in environments between the Agreement Bridge and other plans! Here are 25 points for you!

  16. I don’t think I have ever used a specific counseling technique. I have certainly talked with students about concerns I have, so I’ll use my past experiences in those regards to compare and contrast. Let’s look at the differences first.

    I never made the conversation like a game. I can see how turning it into a game would make the whole event less intimidating for the student and more focused for the teacher. Also, the way the game is set up, it’s more collaborative. Both the student and the teacher give input for each of the six squares. This is much better than me telling the student what is wrong, asking if she agrees, and then me posing a solution that the student also agrees to simply because she would rather be anywhere else than sitting one on one with her teacher talking about a problem. Finally, the game is meant to be played more than once if necessary. I never approached my students again to reevaluate the problem. If it didn’t work with the first conversation, I documented it and moved on to another possible solution. Also, we never wrote anything down like the Agreement Contract.

    There were some similarities in how I approached my children and the Agreement Bridge. I always want to build rapport with my students and make them feel comfortable, so I usually would start the conversation in a similar fashion to the “Hello” square. We would talk and laugh about anything but the problem for a few minutes to help ease the tension. Another similarity is that I made the goals very clear and measurable. I completely agree with the chapter in this regard, though I never added a timeline to my goals. I like how the chapter added specific days and times to complete the goals and reevaluate.

    As I type through my approach and contrast it with the Agreement Bridge, I wonder where my brain was. It makes so much sense to write an agreement down, revisit it, and make changes if necessary. I need to be helping the student and myself as much as possible to get to the desired behavior. The Agreement Bridge gives simple, easy to follow steps in order to achieve that goal.

    Meredith Pearson

    1. Meredith,
      Great job of comparing and contrasting the Agreement Bridge with other plans! I agree with you about the tendency of teachers to quickly move on to another plan when they sense student failure. Here are 25 points and a 5 point Bonus!

  17. Chapter 22 – The Agreement Bridge

    This will be my eighth year teaching. Six of those years were in the Special Ed Preschool/Life Skills program. Most of the students were non-verbal and/or mentally impacted. Most of the behavior issues were handled by myself and my para the way we wanted to handle it without student input. We bribed with stickers, stamps on their hands, and extra free time. For the students that could communicate, I still chose how the adults were going to “help them” solve the problem. I now realize by not listening or understanding their position of the problem I most likely prolonged the issue. Last year was my first year in 1st grade. I was so unsuccessful in classroom management I didn’t try anything close to the Agreement Bridge. I bribed, I pleaded, and I offered rewards. It was teacher controlled and teacher failed! There was one student that the principal after witnessing him during my observation, pulled out of my room and the two of them set up their own behavior plan between them. I was told to reward him with a smiley face for each and every area he did well on. He would then go see the principal at the end of the day and receive Kelso bucks (our school-wide PBS) for every Smiley he received. There were times when he would receive more Kelso bucks than my respectful students even though he continued to be a disruption in class as he was rewarded smileys during recess and lunch. He was earning at least 10 Kelso bucks a week to play. Unfortunately, his behavior in class never got better and I only grew more frustrated. I can’t speak to what communication this student had with the principal as I was not included. One key component that stood out to me regarding the Agreement Bridge is that I now realize how important it will be for me to take the time to communicate with my challenging students. Taking the time to get to know them better will establish a bond between us, and I hope establish a stronger relationship. Approaching the Agreement Bridge as a game will allow the student to feel calmer than when approached by an angry adult. I also like that the student will have some control of the topics on the game board that he/she is comfortable with at the beginning. The Hello square is a good way to learn a little more about the student and for them to learn a little more about you. I think students don’t see us as living human beings outside of our classrooms. The Problem square will give each of us an opportunity to express the problem from our point of view. The Swap square gives us an opportunity to describe the problem from the other person’s point of view. This could tell you a lot about the other person’s perspective. The Smart square is a good opportunity for each person to use critical thinking skills to come up with a smart solution to the problem. The Foolish square will shed a little humor on the situation and could lighten the mood. The Change square is a good opportunity for both parties to commit to a change they both agree on and are willing to make. I also like the idea of only using two specific agreements with deadlines which will help to make the Agreement Bridge manageable for both myself and the student. I believe in 1st grade the levels prior to the Agreement Bridge will help with my challenging students, but it is good to have another tool in my back pocket if need be. The Agreement Bridge provides more beneficial results for both the teacher and student compared to my one-sided teacher approach.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Terri,
      I admire you for recognizing the fact that what you tried in the past didn't work, and knowing it was time to move to new strategies such as the Agreement Bridge! You made a bold statment about your past effort "It was teacher controlled and teacher failed!" Recognizing that fact is important! You had a couple of sentences that weren't clear (needed commas for clarificaion). Here are 20 certification points!

  18. I have not personally used a counseling technique in my classroom, but the usual traditional approach is to talk to the student and come up with some solutions to the problem; which the student is then expected to promptly implement. If this approach does not yield the desired results, the student will have a “talk” with the principal. If this admonition is not enough the parents would be contacted for a parent-teacher conference.

    Based on this approach, there are several differences in regards to the Agreement Bridge. First, the conversation is usually conducted in a formal manner, where the teacher does the talking and the student is expected to do the listening. With the Agreement Bridge there is clearly a “game” approach which helps to put the student at ease. By playing the game a trust is built between the student and the teacher.

    Second, with the traditional approach any solution to the problem is usually based on the teacher’s initiative, with little or no input from the student. It is very seldom, if ever, that students participate in brain-storming possible solutions. However with the Agreement Bridge, the student plays a very active part in coming up with the changes that will be made for improving the problem.

    Finally, there is no role-reversal in the usual approach, and thus seeing the problem from the other person’s perspective is a missed opportunity, for both the student and the teacher. The Agreement Bridge’s different levels allow for many different approaches to the problem and other underlying issues before an agreement is made.
    There are many differences with between the traditional approach and the Agreement Bridge, however there are similarities too. I know that any teacher approaching a student, with the hopes of helping to solve a problem, has good intentions and desires what is best for the student. With that in mind, one similarity is the intentions of the teachers, administrator, and counselors who desire to help their students. My personal approach in the past, has also been an effort to establish common ground before moving on to the problem at hand. Like the Agreement Bridge, I have always tied to approach my students with respect, and the desire to help them improve.

    Another similarity is in the measurement of improvement. Both approaches have time lines involved in measuring the attainment of the goals that were set. For the traditional approach the effectiveness of reaching the goals are usually measured from grading period to grading period. With the Agreement Bridge the goals are “smaller” or more specific, and thus more manageable, with frequent “games” to evaluate progress and set new goals.

    1. WBT Pioneer,
      Very nice post! You made a good point that the student plays a very active part in this level. Establishing common ground with the student sets the stage for an effective behavior management strategy such as the Agreement Bridge. Here are 25 certification points!

  19. I have never formally been trained in using a counseling technique with challenging students (pretty sad considering I have taught for seventeen years and have encountered many challenging students).

    The Agreement Bridge’s flexible game format is very different than anything I’ve ever used or heard of. Meetings with challenging students and their parents have always been tense with a feeling of the parents “taking sides” with the teacher AGAINST the student. The Agreement Bridge’s format diffuses the tension and allows for a true discussion.

    This collaborative problem solving approach is something I have used, however not in a game format and often with MY solution in mind BEFORE the meeting. It often seems the parents want ME to fix the problem because I am the expert, so I have felt in order to be prepared for these meetings, I had better have a solution ready to present. During such meetings I would talk TO the student and his/her parents and lead the discussion so that the student thought they were helping to come up with or agree with a solution, when in reality I had already planned the outcome.
    The “Hello” and “Swap” squares are such important pieces of the Agreement Bridge. I do tend to ask students about what is going on in their lives and try to put myself in their position, because there were a few years in my childhood in which circumstances beyond my control made it difficult for me to be a student. “Hello” and “Swap” will ensure that I take the time to listen to what the student might be going through and put myself in their position.

    On a side note, I am currently raising three teenagers and am seriously going to use the Agreement Bridge with my highly gifted and highly argumentative/inquisitive 14 year old son! This format is just what we need. Thanks Coach B!

    Jamie Rickman