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Effective Behaviour System at an Elementary School

In GVTA News Vol 8 Issue 2 Oct 2001

By   Amber Harvey Quadra Elementary School     

January 2000: I had “one of those classes”. AU the classroom management strategies I’d learned and used in the past no longer worked. I was reduced to the lowest common denominator — showing my anger and frustration. Then I read about an Effective Behavior System workshop. My attitude was “At this point, I’ll try anything”.

I attended the workshop along with a couple of teachers an administrator and two special student assistants from my school. I was hoping for a few strategies to take back to the classroom with me. Instead, I felt more than a faint hope that we could transform children’s lives by teaching them effective behaviours, just the way we taught them reading and math. AU we’d have to do was get everyone on board, to teach and re- teach positive behavior. Everyone on staff would have to agree to teach the behaviours we wanted to see, and model them. How could we make this happen?      

February-May, 2000: Our little team of the committed went about gathering data by means of staff surveys. What was working in the school? What wasn’t? Where was it working? Where wasn’t it? I felt impatient because we weren’t changing things in time for my class to be affected, but this was the sort of background information we needed to collect if we waned to improve children’s behaviour.

May, 2000: At our Professional Development Day, our core group presented what we’d learned at our workshop, as well as the results of the surveys.  

June, 2000: At our last Staff Meeting Of the the year, we shared with the staff we hoped so see our school heading in, in terms of student behaviours. September 2000: Our school’s first EBS ( ?) meeting of the year was held. Eighteen staff members attended. We felt positive and enthusiastic.

September 25: On our first professional development day we discussed our shared beliefs. We proposed behaviour themes for the year. Any small number of themes would have worked.

We chose four:

-       Be Safe,

-       Be Respectful,

-       Be Cooperative, and

-       Be Responsible.  

October, 2000: At our staff meeting, we discussed what “being safe” would look like in our school. We suggested strategies for teaching such as brainstorming, role-playing and games. At our next school assembly we introduced our first theme “Be Safe” to the students. Knowing that humans often work harder if there’s an extrinsic reward, we told the students they’d get a small certificate (which we dubbed a “gotcha”) each time we caught them doing something to promote safety, whether in the classrooms, halls or playground. The children would take half of the certificate home to show to their families. The other half would go into a glass box with goal lines marked on it. We promised that after the first goals was reached, the whole school would get a reward.  

December 2000: Our first goal, level one on the glass box, was reached. The children got an extra-long recess and a candy cane. We introduced our second theme, “Be Respectful.        

January 2001: Our next goal was reached, the second line on the box, and we all celebrated with a recess in the afternoon. Our third theme was introduced, “Be Cooperative”. We taught co-operation and re-taught it when that was needed.           

March 2001: Reaching the third goal was celebrated by a school-wide sports afternoon held at a near-by park.      

April 4, 2001: A school mascot was introduced, to raise school spirit, but also to further enliven the extrinsic reward system.         

April 25, 2001: Our fourth theme, “Be Responsible” was introduced at our whole- school assembly. We will be focusing on teaching the students how to behave responsively for the rest of the year, while continuing to review and reinforce the other learned behaviours.

Our school has continued to build on the EBS idea of everyone teaching the same positive behaviours at the same time. We share school-wide goals. Everyone teaches the behaviours we want to see and re- teaches them when they aren’t fully learned, just as we teach everything else. We share the belief that since nobody expects children to come to school knowing how to read or do math, we cannot assume that they come to us knowing what our behavioural expectations are or how to accomplish them. As teachers, we teach. It’s great to know that we’re all teaching the same behavioural goals, and that everyone on staff is on the same side. We’ve kept the parents informed of our goals and achievements, as well, so that they can support their children in their learning and celebrate their successes with them.

It’s acknowledged by everyone on staff that the student behaviours this year are far better than last year. I’m happy to report that my mental health has also improved.