Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ready, Set, Go! The Power of Teaming

Internship provides our profession with a way for experienced teachers to share information with beginning (novice) teachers. However, newly trained professionals can also bring with them a wealth of current research and a willingness to embrace current practice. I had the pleasure of observing such an intern at Arcola Community School this past Fall. Melissa Thiessen not only participated in the professional development that was provided, she became a leader in the implementation of PBIS. This is how having clearly defined procedures and routines supported her as a beginning teacher.

My internship started a little bit earlier than most, as I attended two days of meetings focusing on our school’s mission statement and how we would use PBIS and focusing on Level 1 interventions that can be put in place to benefit the group of students as a whole. These days were incredibly well spent. We were able to be proactive in our approach to the students behaviour and had all clusters, and in fact the whole school on board with our positive behaviour program before the students arrived for their first day of school.

The ‘On Target’ chart is something that each cluster decided to use, adapting it to fit their special needs. The Jr. Cluster (grades 3,4,5) used the chart as a way for students to have a visual reminder of their behaviour. Things that cause a student to move their clothes peg (with their name on it) down to the next level for breaking rules (hands and feet to self, being kind with actions and words, transition calmly and quietly, etc.) or generally having unacceptable behaviour (such as interrupting, being rude or disobeying an instruction). Students knew what was expected of them, and they knew the consequence for their actions, should they choose to disobey. But just as importantly, I also knew what was expected of them, and what the consequences were. At the end of each day, students recorded in their agenda what colour their peg was on and showed it to their parents.

For the first months we found that we had been putting the focus on avoiding being on yellow, rather than staying on green. As a cluster we decided to begin publicly recognizing students who stay on green. We agreed that making a bulletin board display to reinforce students who are on green for a period of time would be a great step to encourage other students to achieve it as well. Our title was “Go for the Green” and I volunteered to make a bulletin board to help us accomplish this dual goal of motivating others to stay on green and recognizing the students who are already doing it. The students who stayed on green for an entire week would also participate in a fun activity created just to celebrate this achievement.

The majority of the students reacted very well to using the chart. Many students celebrate the fact that they are always on green. The other day as I was collecting the “green team” for their weekly picture, a few students left behind in the classroom protested “Carly (not real name) is never on Yellow! Man! It’s not fair!” Which lead the teacher, while we were gone, to ask the students to brain storm and talk about the positive traits that Carly has, and how she chooses to behave in school. This conversation moved into a motivating discussion about how the students who were not on green this week can make some concrete changes in their behaviour so that they can be the ones celebrating a week on green next week.

As an intern coming in to this school I was very fortunate to have this system in place to support me in my teaching. The students, the other teachers, and I were all on the same page regarding discipline in the school. Students were asked to move their own peg, showing ownership and acknowledgement of their actions. There is no place where a student can hide from the consequences of their actions. Each staff member knows about the on target chart and as a staff we support each others' decisions when a peg must be moved. This program helped me to be able to focus on teaching, instead of figuring out what consequences should result from disruptive behaviour as well as the challenge of saying consistent. When I have my own classroom I will definitely implement this program. However I very much see the benefits of having it as a whole school program, with the administration on board 100% as well.

Melissa Thiessen, Intern (2012)

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