Ask Why, Not Who Else


I wonder what success we would find with students if we approached student’s behavior with the same inquiry based thinking we use for other problems we face? While I have never met a teacher who is in the field for the wrong reasons or isn’t trying to help students,it seems we are in the world of misguided advice, which hassomehow turned teachers from being empowered in their classrooms to support students,toinstead turningsome into feeling helpless.

I have heard several teachers, counselors, psychologists, principals, deans,and assistant principals say when working with a student, “I don’t know what else to do.They need to just be moved to another location or with another teacher.” I can absolutely sympathize.It does seem that students are coming to us with more trauma, more aggression, and more problems self-regulating. I’m just confused at when our first response has become,this student needs to be moved. What happened to the teachers and the team that says, “What else can Ior wedo?”

We have turned a corner,instead of asking how can we support this student,what we can implement instructionally,or what can my team do to teach this student, we areinstead at times blaming or otherwise looking for something outside us to fix the problem. My concernisthis,research and studies show that educators have the knowledge, expertise and the ability to impact students more than any other factor. We must be the fix. So, if we are turning a student away, using suspension, or alternative programs to help children,are we not just creating a bigger problem? How does a child ever feel a part of their community, if our response is to send them to the program down the street?

Maybe the challenge is that teachers are not getting enough professional development on supporting students. Or perhaps we have gone to a system focusing on such ahigh academic achievement where teachers don’t feel like they have the ability to take the time to support a student? Or could it be the problem is that teachers do not have the tools and resources embedded in their learning environment to provide for the student?

I’m sure there are a hundred reasons why this continues to be a problem. I’m sure there are also thousands of teachers and team members begging to have the tools to help a student, but still feel that they do not have the right tools or they have too many other responsibilities.  I know the success starts and ends with the teacher who asks not where can this student go, but what is this students behavior communicating? What can I do to help this student instead of who else can save me from this student that is a starting place.

I know if we don’t start taking a step back to keep the relationship with the student at the forefront of everything we do,and instead get angry, yell or even punish these students, we only create a larger gap and a bigger problem.

I have engaged with thousands of teams, developed hundreds of behavior plans, and the one difference between success and failure in every case is not how much the student struggles, but how much time and support the team is willing to put into building a strong relationship with the student. No matter what the student does, the success comes from the team.


Dr. Austine Etcheverry

I started my educational career as a 1:1 paraprofessional for a student who was blind and had a cognitive impairment. After this amazing opportunity, I decided teaching was my passion. In 2007 I became a certified special education teacher and taught 5th – 8th grade resource. Throughout my career in education, I have held various leadership roles such as a technology coach, an exceptional needs coach and an IEP coordinator. Three years ago, I decided to begin pursuing my National Board Certification and was fortunate enough to achieve in December 2018. I currently have the privilege of being the principal in the Avondale Elementary School District at a school for students with an emotional disability. I have my own social media company where I write and create dental blogs. I have also had the honor of publishing articles in a dental magazine as well as published a young adult science fiction series. In December 2018, I became a certified yoga instructor and recently completed my Doctorate in Education Leadership and Administration from Aspen University.

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