Triton Elementary School gets positive
For years, the formula for teaching a child the way to act properly has remained the same. Little Jimmy is in the classroom and wants no part of the lesson the teacher is presenting to him. Bored, he tosses his pencil across the room as an act of desperation.
“Jimmy,” the teacher scolds. “Don’t throw your pencil across the room! Go pick it up!”
Jimmy heads over to pick up the pencil and returns to his desk. Five minutes later, Jimmy may toss the pencil again and the cycle continues or, the punishment intensifies to a timeout, a meeting with the principal or — even worse — a phone call to their parents. The negative cycle could take a similar effect on the child and he may not know the appropriate behavior.
As classes began at Triton Elementary School this fall, the staff is taking a different approach with their students. Instead of employing the traditional methods, the staff is learning a new system called Positive Behavior Intervention Strategies, which reinforces positive behaviors rather than admonishing negative ones.
“We’ve been kind of doing things old school for a long time,” Triton kindergarten teacher Katie Macrafic said. “If the kid was doing something you wouldn’t like them to do, then they would get a color change. Then, they get a timeout. Then they would go to the principal’s office and then get sent home. It’s a very punitive way of dealing with behaviors. With a system like that there is not a lot of stopping and re-teaching right away.”
PBIS operates under a four-step process to teach, model, reinforce and celebrate positive behaviors. Using Jimmy as an example, if Jimmy were to toss his pencil across the classroom, the teacher may grab a pencil off her desk and tell him that his pencil was having trouble sticking to his hand and to try hers. If Jimmy holds on, the teacher can go back later and re-inforce the positive behavior and the benefits it provides.
“It’s changing our mindset from talking about behavior negatively and putting a positive spin on it,” Macrafic said. “It’s about modeling what the positive behavior is and calling to the kids that you are doing what is expected of them.”
The program also coincides with the four general rules at Triton of be responsible, be respectful, be safe and be a worker. Teachers show the kids what positive behavior looks like in all areas of the school such as the lunchroom, playground and classroom and works to show everyone what it’s all about.
There are also several perks for the kids that excel in the program. Each month Triton Elementary School will hold a HERO assembly, which recognizes some of the kids that have shown the best behavior. Along with that recognition, there are other events, such as pizza parties and class awards that help reward classes for positive behaviors in different areas, that will grab the attention of the students and help them act the right way.
“As you start highlighting all of the positives, all the kids are going to want to be a part of this,” Macrafic said. “We’re hoping that as this goes along, the kids can teach each other as well and the more positive we can be, the more we can get everybody on board and that will reduce the distractions in class and the behavior referrals.”
The PBIS program is still under development at Triton as it begins with a two-year training period that began in August. While the program may look different in a couple months, Macrafic says the support for it has been overwhelmingly positive and the staff is excited what it could bring.
“People are so happy to have this change and try something new that’s so positive,” Macrafic said. “Already, I just see a great change in the staff and that’s a boost in morale for everyone. You’re never going to balk at something like that.”