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School Spotlight - Middle school working to promote a feeling of PRIDE

Buckets filled with Pup PRIDE Tickets and jugs filled with sand - two regular fixtures at GMS. For some students getting a pat on the back isn’t something that comes often. For a lot of students being recognized at school for something as simple as holding the door open for a fellow student can mean the world.

It’s that feeling of pride that comes along with recognition and praise that Grandview Middle School administrators, teachers and staff are hoping to capitalize on. They are hoping by promoting good behavior and a culture of respect, they can encourage all students to take a little pride in their school.

This year administrators have taken the first steps to implement a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program or PBIS at Grandview Middle School. 

GMS Principal James Heinle said PBIS isn’t a completely new concept at his school. The school received a grant several years ago to implement PBIS at the school. Over the years, the grant expired and the program was abandoned. Heinle decided he wanted to see the program make a resurgence, but this time he wanted to build the program from the ground up.

“It’s what’s best for kids,” Heinle said.

The idea is to make success in school easy. At GMS there are only three basic school rules:
• Listen and follow directions
• Respect your classmates and all staff
• Keep your hands, feet and objects to yourself

These three rules form the foundation of the school’s push to create a more positive school culture and climate. They also led to the creation of the school’s PRIDE expectations – the expectations work to outline what behaviors are expected in different areas of the school. 

PRIDE stands for perseverance, respect, integrity, discipline and excellence – traits teachers, staff and administrators want students to keep in mind as they go through their day. The school’s PRIDE expectations can be found throughout the school. Classroom expectations are posted in every classroom, library expectations are posted in the library, cafeteria expectations are posted in cafeteria – regardless of where you are in the school, you will find a poster outlining the behaviors expected for that space.

For example: in the classroom students should work to show perseverance by striving for success and asking for help when needed, they would show respect by listening to the speaker and taking care of school supplies, they should show integrity by doing their work and being trustworthy, they should show discipline by coming to class prepared and meeting deadlines and they should show excellence by doing their personal best and exceeding minimum expectations.

It’s through these PRIDE expectations that students can earn recognition and awards. Every teacher has a drawer full of Pup PRIDE Tickets. The tickets are smaller versions of the school-wide PRIDE expectation chart that act as a form of recognition. If a student is caught doing something good, a teacher will take one of the tickets, circle the area on the chart where the student demonstrated good judgement, fill out both their name and the student’s name and present the ticket to the student.

Students then take the tickets to the library where they are placed in a bucket according to grade. Then once a week, tickets are drawn out of the buckets and the winners receive candy prizes. The buckets are also used during assemblies – names are drawn from the buckets to select students to participate in assembly activities.

“Sometimes they’re just happy to be recognized,” said Kerri Eucker, the PBIS facilitator. 

Walking down the main hallway at GMS it’s hard to miss the big jugs in the library window. The jugs contain sand – some jugs contain more sand than others. The jugs correlate with a class competition. Because while individuals can be recognized with Pup PRIDE Tickets, if an entire classroom does a good job, the class is awarded a Poco Pup Cup and a Poco Pup Cup is worth a portion of sand.

When a class does something good – for example they do a good job for a substitute teacher – the teacher gives them a Poco Pup Cup. The ticket for the Poco Pup Cup is sent to the library, where the librarian takes that ticket and adds a portion of sand to that grade’s jar. The other way sand gets added to the jar is through class competitions at assemblies. If a class wins a competition during an assembly they get a full Pup Cup of sand that is added to their jug during the assembly – in front of the whole school.

At the end of the year, the grade with the most sand will earn a special reward.

This approach toward a more positive school culture and climate with a rewards-based system builds on the fact that a majority of students don’t have discipline problems. The PBIS/PRIDE program is aimed at getting those students in the minority to want to make better choices and get rewarded for good behavior instead of reprimanded.

Eucker said looking at the student body roughly 80 percent of students don’t have discipline issues. They follow the rules and, through this new program, they are rewarded for their efforts. Of the remaining 20 percent, about 15 percent are students who have a few discipline issues and the remaining 5 to 10 percent are those who are chronically not following the rules. The idea is to use positive reinforcement and rewards to bring that 20 percent into the majority. To make them want to earn prizes and work together.

On the other side, when students do have discipline issues PBIS offers a different avenue in terms of consequences. 

Teachers and administrators can opt to use restorative justice. Restorative justice is simply another option when it comes to consequences. It’s something other than detention. It gives the students a chance to restore justice – to right any wrongs they committed.

For example – if students are warned repeatedly not to run through the middle of the hallway at lunch. Instead of handing each of the students a slip for lunch detention, the teacher or administrator can opt for restorative justice. Instead of detention, students could have to wear orange safety vests during lunch and patrol the hallways for a week. It’s a way to right the wrong – it’s a way to restore justice.

Students also play a direct role in how PBIS is implemented at their school. Eighth graders Jazelle Tovar and Dylan Cavazos are the student representatives on the school’s PBIS Committee. They bring a student point of view to the process.

“We represent what the students want and what would work from a student’s perspective,” Tovar said.

Both Tovar and Cavazos said it took them a couple of meetings to feel comfortable enough to bring their perspective to the table, but once they did they felt they learned a lot and helped make some positive changes.

“You have to remember that what you’re doing is important for the school and the committee,” Cavazos said.

Tovar and Cavazos not only help come up with incentives for the program – they also help hand them out. When Pup Pride Tickets are drawn from the bucket for candy prizes, the prizes are distributed by the two eighth graders. 

The PBIS and PRIDE programs have only been in place at GMS since late fall/early winter. It’s still too early for the data to show how the programs are working, but Heinle is optimistic.

He hopes to see the program continue and the chance to earn incentives grow. He said you have to be willing to try different approaches to reach out to kids and he hopes these programs will make a difference.

“Every kid has a lock – you just have to find the key,” Heinle said. “And I really do see kids showing more respect to each other.”