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Lost at School

Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

About The Book

From a distinguished clinician, pioneer in working with behaviorally challenging kids, and author of the acclaimed The Explosive Child comes a groundbreaking approach for understanding and helping these kids and transforming school discipline.

Frequent visits to the principal's office. Detentions. Suspensions. Expulsions. These are the established tools of school discipline for kids who don't abide by school rules, have a hard time getting along with other kids, don't seem to respect authority, don't seem interested in learning, and are disrupting the learning of their classmates. But there's a big problem with these strategies: They are ineffective for most of the students to whom they are applied.

It's time for a change in course.

Here, Dr. Ross W. Greene presents an enlightened, clear-cut, and practical alternative. Relying on research from the neurosciences, Dr. Greene offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the difficulties of kids with behavioral challenges and explains why traditional discipline isn't effective at addressing these difficulties. Emphasizing the revolutionarily simple and positive notion that kids do well if they can, he persuasively argues that kids with behavioral challenges are not attention-seeking, manipulative, limit-testing, coercive, or unmotivated, but that they lack the skills to behave adaptively. And when adults recognize the true factors underlying difficult behavior and teach kids the skills in increments they can handle, the results are astounding: The kids overcome their obstacles; the frustration of teachers, parents, and classmates diminishes; and the well-being and learning of all students are enhanced.

In Lost at School, Dr. Greene describes how his road-tested, evidence-based approach -- called Collaborative Problem Solving -- can help challenging kids at school.

His lively, compelling narrative includes:

• tools to identify the triggers and lagging skills underlying challenging behavior.

• explicit guidance on how to radically improve interactions with challenging kids -- along with many examples showing how it's done.

• dialogues, Q & A's, and the story, which runs through the book, of one child and his teachers, parents, and school.

• practical guidance for successful planning and collaboration among teachers, parents, administrations, and kids.

Backed by years of experience and research, and written with a powerful sense of hope and achievable change, Lost at School gives teachers and parents the realistic strategies and information to impact the classroom experience of every challenging kid.

Reading Group Guide © The Main Idea 2009. All rights reserved.

Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

By Ross W. Greene (Scribner, 2008)

Book Group Questions from The Main Idea

The Story of Joey

1. What was your reaction to the incident involving Joey introduced in the first chapter? Who seems to be suffering in this narrative? Why?

Do you believe anyone was at fault for what happened? Do you think any of the staff members could have reacted differently to Joey?

The Basic Premise of the Book

2. What is the basic premise of the book – what does Dr. Greene believe to be the main problem facing kids with behavioral challenges? Why are they not behaving themselves according to Dr. Greene?

The Disciplinary System

3. What does the author say about the current state of our discipline system? How does it or doesn’t it serve students who behave well? What about students with behavioral challenges? Why or why not? Do you agree/disagree and why or why not? What do you think works and doesn’t work with your current disciplinary system?

Philosophy of Children

4. How is Dr. Greene’s philosophy of children (“Kids do well if they can”) different from the prevailing view (“Kids do well if they want to”)? How do these differing views affect the way adults approach behavioral issues? Does you school seem to favor the former or latter view? How do your school policies or practices reflect the prevailing view about children? What can you tell about the teacher’s (Mrs. Woods) philosophy and the other staff member’s philosophies about challenging kids based on their reactions to Joey’s incident?

Life Skills

5. Dr. Greene proposes a long list of life skills that kids with challenging behavior are lacking. What is your response to this list? Which items stand out or resonate for you and your experience with challenging students? Would you add any life skills to this list that seem to be missing? Are any of the items confusing?

Pills and Skills

6. Looking at the list of possible lagging skills. How does this compare to the diagnoses we are used to seeing in kids with challenging behavior (ADHD, bipolar disorder, etc.)? Why does the author prefer not to use these diagnoses? Can you explain the following quote from the book -- “pills don’t teach skills.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems

7. Dr. Greene describes two culprits of children’s challenging behavior -- lagging skills and unsolved problems. What is the difference between them? What does the author believe should be the first step in addressing challenging behavior and how can the ALSUP tool help?

Plan A

8. When teachers’ expectations are unmet, they often respond with Plan A. What exactly is this plan? Even if teachers have been successful with this plan, why does Dr. Greene say this approach still contains flaws? What has been your personal experience with Plan A – do you use it frequently? Do you consider yourself to use it “nicely”? How is Plan A different from simply communicating an expectation?

Plan B

9. What are some of the benefits of using Plan B to address problems with kids? What are the three steps involved in Plan B? How do these differ from approaches you’ve used (even casually) or read about? What do you anticipate might be some obstacles to doing the three steps involved in Plan B? What are the most important benefits of the Empathy step? What might make this step hard to implement?

Plan B and Joey

10. In the continuation of the Joey story from pp.92-108 we see some of Plan B taking place. What were the actions and words in the narrative that you think will contribute to making this a successful plan? Is there anything else you think the staff members should have said or done? What concerns do you have about the new plan?

Using Plan B with a Group

11. On p. 208 Mrs. Woods attempts to use Plan B with her entire class to address a class issue. If you want to use Plan B with a group, what groundwork needs to be in place to make sure it’s successful? What is your reaction to how Plan B plays out with her entire class? Do you think this would work with any age group? Would it need to be modified? If you were to ask the same open-ended question as Mrs. Woods does about the kids in her class not getting along, what types of issues do you imagine would surface in your class?

Concluding Thoughts

12. Overall, how did you feel about the resolution of Joey’s challenging behavior? Does it seem realistic? Does it seem translatable to other kids in other situations?

13. How can you imagine Collaborative Problem Solving/Plan B working in your school? What would have to happen for your school to implement this? What obstacles would have to be overcome? Which students can you think of right now who would benefit?

About The Author

Photograph by Jon Sachs

Dr. Ross W. Greene is the author of Raising Human Beings, Lost and Found, Lost at School, and The Explosive Child. Dr. Greene was on the faculty at Harvard Medical School for over twenty years, and is now founding director of the nonprofit organization Lives in the Balance (, through which he disseminates the model of care—now called Collaborative & Proactive Solutions—described in his books. Dr. Greene’s research has been funded by the US Department of Education, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Stanley Medical Research Institute, and the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. He speaks widely throughout the world.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (October 21, 2008)
  • Length: 304 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416583677

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