Craig Middle School staff works to focus on good behavior | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig Middle School staff works to focus on good behavior

Michael Neary

Eighth-grader Lexi Weber

— As Lexi Weber sees it, the thought of a typical punishment such as detention doesn't hold as much sway with students as some adults might think it does.

"When kids think they're going to get detention, they think, 'Well, detention's not that bad — it's really not," said Weber, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Craig Middle School. "Good things make them want to do good things. But when you think of negative consequences, kids kind of blow it off."

Lexi is the vice-president of student council at the middle school, which works closely with the school's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team. PBIS is a system, used in this district and throughout the country, designed to encourage good behavior by rewarding positive actions rather than simply punishing negative ones, explained Vicki Blomquist, a sixth-grade English teacher at the school.

"We don't want to expel students; we don't want to pick on the negatives," she said. "We want to first recognize the positives in hopes that other students will follow what they see. Our goal is to change negative behavior by recognizing the positive."

On Friday, the school put the philosophy into action by recognizing about 150 students for strong performance during the first semester. The breakfast at the school honored students who'd earned straight A's, students who'd made a grade point average of 3.5 to 3.99 and students who'd achieved perfect attendance. Blomquist said McDonald's donated food for the breakfast.

Lara Sigmon, school counselor at Craig Middle School, facilitates PBIS at the school.

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"I think people are just wired to be more successful and achieve more when they have those positive reinforcements," she said.

Assistant Principal John Haddan noted that the system complements penalties for negative behavior.

"We have very clear consequences for (negative) behavior, but we also have positive consequences for good behavior," he said. "The combination of the two programs really works."

Both Sigmon and Haddan noted the importance of setting up lunches between students struggling with poor behavior and teachers.

"We set up lunchtime with staff, and that helps," said Sigmon. “Just making that connection with another adult has helped decrease negative behavior for many students. They still have consequences (for misbehavior), but we also set up something positive."

Bre Ford, a sixth-grade math and science teacher, said the system works well with students who struggle with their behavior — as well as with those who don't.

"I think it works very well across all of them," Ford said. "If we have those kids that have those behavior issues, if we see them do something great, we want to reward that behavior. Then we have kids who are always great, but then they do that little above-and-beyond or we see something exceptional, and that's a reward for them as well."

One of the rewards is called a "top dog," a written recognition that earns a student candy and possibly games and other rewards. Students receive other kinds of recognition, as well, at pep rallies, dances and other events.

Janie Wilson, a sixth-grade English teacher, said the effect can spread from student to student.

"When we hand it to the kids, the other kids say, 'Oh yeah, I can get one of those,'" she said.

Teachers Wilson, Ford and Blomquist are all members of the school's PBIS team.

Lexi described one student project based on the PBIS system called the Great Wall of Kindness. The student council members will write the name of each student on a sticky note along with something nice about that student, with the notes posted on a wall near the office.

Lexi said those compliments will spur more compliments and more notes from student to student.

"Bullying's a big thing, and we need to show kids that by being kind, you get rewarded," Lexi said. She described bullying as something that can unravel under the adult radar.

"It happens pretty often," Lexi said. "Kids don't want to tell people that there have been mean things said, and so that's why teachers wouldn't know that there's a whole lot of it."

Rewards for good behavior, Lexi contended, can help alleviate that sort of bullying.

"When you get a top dog for being good, you want to be good," she said. "I think that influences it a lot."