A new kind of office
If you’re a student that is about to go the office, the chances are high that you did something wrong. In a traditional school, that march to the area that houses the principal and his secretaries can be a long one and if you have a problem or a need to talk something out, it can be an intimidating setting to air things out.
At Triton Elementary School, they are looking to change that. Counselor Joseph Andino is in his first year
at the school after working with several other Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) schools around the Bis- marck, N.D. area. One of the things that he’s seen with the program is that they make an effort to make sure the office isn’t such an intimidating space.
“We want a place that is less intimidating and is warmer,” Andino said. “An office in a school is a business place. You have parents coming in and out to pick up their kids for a doctor appointment or they’re registering for school. It’s great for adults, but tough for a kid when we ask them to come into this business-like place when you’re already upset and then we want you to ask for help. That’s a lot of steps for a kid and even some adults would have some problems doing that.”
In order to create that warmer environment the counselor’s office has moved from the main office to a classroom in the middle of the school. This simple step allows the coun- selor to be more accessible to students and gives them the ability to duck their head in during a tough day to receive counseling.
“That few minutes during the passing period or when they’re coming back, they can duck their head in,” Andino said. “That helps us get some of these solutions a little quicker and if a student has a tough time, they have a place to go.”
The classroom is also not your typical classroom. Warm white Christmas lights adorn the walls to create a more com- fortable ambiance as well as a couch, rocking chairs and even some bean bags. Earlier in the week, a student had utilized those bean bags in a line to create their own couch to talk about his problems.
There is also the ability to hold classes that help teach the kids how to deal with things emotionally and how to get help when they need it.
“We’re not teaching reading or math, but more emotional skills,” Andino explained. “Having things in here that can demonstrate that and hav-
ing things that can make kids more comfortable with talking about emotions in here where if they are having a problem or just a really bad day, they’re used to talking in here. That makes them prepared and they feel ready and used to seeing the counselor’s office.”
Overall, the counselor’s space is just one of many ways that PBIS has positively impacted TES in the first couple months of the year. The system has made the office a much less intimidating place to be and another way to help encourage students to make a positive impact themselves.
“The office is a great place for help and [Triton principal] Nick Jurrens has done a great job making the office more welcoming,” Andino said. “We want to eliminate that negative stigma the office has because it’s almost engrained in society. We want the office to be a warm place and place where you could get brought in for the typical stuff, but you could also be brought in because Mr. Jurrens saw you help a kinder- gartener put on his coat this morning. Those nice things help build that relationship with the kids and build that positive behavior."