By: Susan Smith Powers, Dean of Students & Student Support
One of the hallmarks of our program is our commitment to our community core values which include respect, honesty, courage, compassion and responsibility. All members of our school community are expected to demonstrate responsible behavior consistent with these core values. We believe that these core values are fundamental to a supportive, safe and orderly school environment. Many of our students, especially our younger ones, are still learning about our core values and how they apply to everyday life.
One of the ways we teach and reinforce our core values is by “catching kids being good”, which reinforces positive behavior. With my background in child development and clinical counseling and almost three decades working with adolescents, I’ve learned that the best way to increase positive behavior is through positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement focuses on what the student is doing right rather than on what the student is doing wrong. This increases the likelihood of the favored behavior being repeated. Positive reinforcement helps motivate students to do better in the future. They also understand that their good behavior results in positive consequences such as rewards or even mere positive praise. This teaches them the value of personal responsibility, self-discipline as well as pride for their accomplishments.
So how do these “Good Citizen Slips'' (GCS) work? Although students make mistakes, most of the time they are doing great things. They are taking learning risks, helping others, showing good effort, being respectful, taking responsibility for their actions as well as improving their skills. Teachers who observe these great behaviors let them know they earned a GCS and why. An example could be that Sally, who has a very difficult time walking in the halls may need reminders to “please walk” but any time I see Sally walking I let her know by saying, “great job walking in the halls (responsibility), that’s a GCS”. Or Bobby who is usually quiet in class takes a learning risk by volunteering to read (courage). Students then put their slip in the GCS box (one is in the HS and one in the MS) for the next Good Citizen Slip assembly. Students can win prizes or a $5 gift card if their name gets drawn. The more slips they have submitted, the better their chance of winning. The goal for our staff should be to give out as many slips as they can every day. Catching our students being good is a fun (and effective) way to teach our students about our core values as well as reinforce their positive behavior.