Sometimes, making a difference in a child’s life is as simple as acknowledging and appreciating the good deeds they do. And the Positive Behavior Team at Portsmouth Elementary is doing just that. By reinforcing and rewarding positive behaviors, the school continues to witness increasing student morale and participation.
“It’s going really well so far,” explained Principal Beth Born, “we’ve added a few new exciting things to the Positive Behavior Program and they kids really enjoy them.”
The main goal is to focus on the positive, but to motive and reward the students as well. The Positive Behavior team was formed over 10 years ago, and involves administration and teaching staff.
“We want to shift our attention to the positive going on in the building, because so many times there might be a student that the Principal knows by name, maybe for a negative reason,” said 3rd grade teacher, Karen Porter. Porter is just one of many teachers actively involved in the Positive Behavior Team. “We have so many good kids, and even those who are known for negative behaviors, we can get them in those positive roles by really emphasizing how much we appreciate the good.”
By combining motivational and consequential rewards, there is something that speaks to each student to continue constructive behavior. The program is rooted in the ‘five big ideas,’ which are honesty, citizenship, caring, respect and responsibility.
“One of the new aspects of our committee is the attendance program,” explained Porter. “We noticed that we needed to do something about our attendance, and we started this last year to try and get the attendance to come up. Typically the goal is to get 93 percent, but we set the bar a little higher and decided to strive for 95 percent for weekly attendance.”
Each grade level has an attendance bulletin board and each week, if the goal is met, they receive a star for the chart.
“If the students don’t reach the goal, it motivates them to try harder next week,” said Porter. “We always say, ‘If you attend today, you achieve tomorrow.’”
Other rewards include, Trojan Bucks, Lunch-Bunch rewards, a quarterly reward and a movie at the end of the year.
Trojan Bucks, can be given to a student by any member of the staff if they see a student doing a good deed and exhibiting positive behavior. From there, the Trojan Bucks are turned into the office by grade level and each morning, winners from each grade level are selected at random for a prize.
The Lunch-Bunch rewards are also based on the Trojan Buck system. Students can turn their Trojan Bucks in on Friday mornings and two winners from each grade are drawn. The winners get to eat lunch on the stage with a friend, and they also receive a special treat.
“It’s kind of cool because they’re sitting up there and they feel really special,” explained Porter. “They get a treat and they get to ask a buddy to come and sit with them. Not to mention, some of these programs are easily funded and low-budget. But they make the kids feel like a million bucks, they love to be showcased with their friends.”
To award students for long-term positive behaviors, students who have had no out-of-school suspensions, no in-school suspensions, detentions or bus-write ups, get to participate in the quarterly reward.
“It could be recess and a Popsicle, it could be getting to watch a movie in our gym with popcorn,” Porter explained. “One of the favorites from last year was the Staff Lip Sync show. The kids came out of there saying ‘Did you see Mr. Rhea do this? Did you see this person do that?’ and the goal for last year was to get the kids talking about it, so they’ll be motivated to keep up the good behaviors and want to come to the quarterly reward.”
The last reward, the movie reward, is designed to thank the students who have exhibited positive behaviors all year.
“We just want to say, ‘you had a terrific year and we recognize you,’ sometimes these students tend to go under the radar,” said Porter. “The kids get to go to the movie theatre and have popcorn.”
The school has also implemented a positive behavior referral and “posi-gram,” system.
4th grade teacher, Richard Robinson, helped to implement these programs.
“He’s very knowledgeable and experienced and he’s very involved with the program,” said Born.
Robinson joined the PES staff last year, prior to coming to Portsmouth his job was to coordinate positive behavior at another district.
“There really isn’t much to the behavior referrals,” Robinson explained. “They’re a piece of 8 by 11 standard printer paper, and colored ink. But, more important than that, they’re recognition and acknowledgment. There are too many instances where we have a student who will come to school every day, follow instructions, say sir, say ma’am, turn in their homework assignments, and half the building has no idea who this kid is. On the other hand, there are kids who don’t follow rules, don’t turn in homework, and get into trouble, and the entire school knows them by first and last name. That’s backwards. So we do for the students who are doing good, the same things we do for the students who are doing negatively, we acknowledge the behavior.”
Any student pre-kindergarten through sixth grade can receive a positive behavior referral and they can be given by any staff member.
“Since they can be given by anyone in the building, it tells the students that we’re always watching and all of us are watching,” said Robinson. “It’s not just a classroom thing, in fact, it’s probably more important in the common areas, in the hallways, in the lunch rooms, where there’s more congestion and more people. That’s where the students need the extra reinforcement of the positive behaviors.”
The form can be filled out electronically, or it can be done by hand. Once the form is filled out, it is sent to Assistant Principal, Shane Rhea. Each morning, every student who earns one the previous day is called down to the office, and Mr. Rhea takes their photo with the referral, and they are displayed in the hallways.
The Positive Behavior Team also implemented a “posi-gram,” program. Posi-grams are postcards, sent to the home of the student, describing a positive behavior incident, or just positive behavior in general.
“It’s something that we do, it’s a brain-child of Mr. Rhea,” explained Robinson. “You stick it in the mail, and it goes home. It’s different because we know how kids go home and parents ask, ‘what’d you do at school today?’ and then they’ll say, ‘nothing,’ or ‘same old same old.’ When the postcard gets there, and it beats the kids to the house, now mom and dad, and memaw and papaw or whoever has something different to say. Now the behaviors are being reinforced at home.”
Both Robinson and Porter have witnessed changes in their students in just the few short months that they’ve been back in school and hope that things will only get better.
“It can only go up,” said Robinson. “The students are catching on, and now they’re starting to “tell on,” each other for doing positive behaviors. It’s definitely going to get better as the year goes on.”
Reach Ciara Conley at firstname.lastname@example.org