In my job as the disciplinarian for the freshmen class, most of the students I see in my office are there for negative reasons. Often, my first personal encounter with a student is because he or she has violated the code of conduct... misbehaving in class, skipping class, cheating, out of dress code, etc.
Fortunately for me and the students, I'm not a person who enjoys negativity. I WANT to know the students... the ones who are behaving and having consistently successful days as well as those who aren't. I find ways to meet students outside my office by talking to them in the hallways, cafeteria, classrooms, etc.
After attending a session by Bloomfield High School at the annual conference for National Association of Secondary School Principals a few weeks ago, I found a mechanism by which we (grade-level principals) could see students in our office for a positive reason: Praise Referrals. At Bloomfield HS, teachers can "write up" students for positive reasons. I immediately knew that I wanted a copy of their form so that I could bring it back to our school. I emailed one of the presenters while I was in the session and requested a copy. Once I returned to school the next Monday, he had emailed me a copy of the form. Bingo!
While we do recognize Students of the Month (2 per grade level per month), Finley Character Recognition Award winners (7 per grade level), and classroom award winners (recognized at a breakfast in the spring), I still felt like at a school of nearly 2700 students we needed a way to recognize more students for the positive things they do. Now, staff members can recognize students positively throughout the year. When staff members send us grade-level principals a praise referral, we call the student to our office, shower them with praise, and make a positive phone call home. We collect the praise referrals and put them in a box, and at the end of each month we will have a drawing for prizes such as food coupons, iTunes gift cards, etc. and announce those winners over the intercom.
In giving praise to students, I'm reminded to praise the process rather than the person. In a recent study, it was found that children who received more "process praise" felt as thought they could improve their intelligence, and they approached challenging tasks with a more positive attitude. I have a sign in my office that states, "Smart is not something you are. Smart is something you get by working hard."
It's been fun to see the students faces as they come to my office then how their faces change when I tell them why they're there and then when I tell them I'm going to call their parents. I think they all float out of my office when they return to class. :)
Here's what one student posted on Twitter:
How does your school recognize students for positive reasons?