There's a different energy on campus this year at Central Middle School. Principal Anne-Marie Murphy credits the school's new Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program with helping the students and teachers start the year off on the right foot and on common ground.
"Prior to starting this program, we had outlined our expectations and rules for the students. These indicators really told them what you should or shouldn't do rather than providing a framework of values that targeted the source of a behavior," shared Murphy.
The PBIS program, which is called C.H.E.C.K. Yourself, spells out the school's five core values of Collaboration, Honesty, Excellence, Courage and Kindness – a catchy name that appeals to the middle schoolers while also providing a useful tool to help staff redirect students.
"One of the reasons we use this is so we're on the same page and we have a common language," said Assistant Principal Susan Anderson. "If a student is doing something that we need to correct, we simply tell them to 'check yourself.' It's consistent among all staff and it's even catching on among our students. We also encourage parents to use it in their homes."
In order to teach students what these values mean and how to demonstrate them, lessons have been woven into the curriculum. At every faculty meeting, administrators walk the teachers through the C.H.E.C.K. Yourself lesson for the week ranging from writing assignments to videos.
In the second week of school, teachers found that students were really opening up in their writing assignments about that week's value – Honesty. It was refreshing to the teachers and administrators to read the stories that were being shared because it showed a level of trust and also that the students were quickly embracing the new program.
Students are encouraged to put these lessons to use and are rewarded when they model behaviors that reflect the values such as using technology appropriately (Honesty), seeking out answers for higher-level questions (Courage), and showing appreciation in a respectful manner (Kindness).
The reward – a Bulldog Buck.
Here's how it works.
Each staff member is given a supply of Bulldog Bucks, a form that documents:
- Positive behaviors;
- Value(s) the behavior exemplified;
- Name and grade of the student; and
- Staff member that awarded the Bulldog Buck.
Every Friday during lunch, students can trade in their "bucks" for items such as mouse pads, folders, thumb drives, pens and more at The Bulldog Store. There is usually a long line of students holding a stack of orange Bulldog Bucks anxious to see what they can purchase this week.
Students say the program has boosted morale on campus. Sixth grader Tiana Burgess said, "The program has been helpful and has made a difference with my classmates." Seventh grader Katherine Liu added, "It's a good standard for students. Teachers help us learn how to C.H.E.C.K. ourselves and encourage us with lessons."
The staff is also rewarded for their participation. The redeemed Bulldog Bucks are entered into a weekly drawing for a small prize given to the staff member that distributed the winning buck.
Principal Murphy views this initiative as a culture shift. "It's not just us saying 'we want you to do this.' This is what we're doing collectively together. If we're not in this together, it will not be successful," she said.
Twenty-five percent of Central's students are homeless and many others live in shelters or low-income housing. Principal Murphy is establishing a sense of familiarity and consistency that may be lacking in their home life.
"This is a good start," said Zaricke Jackson who teaches English and Social Studies at Central. "We have to show kids values, not just rules. If we work on values, students will be able to carry it with them far past middle school."