While a lot has happened since I wrote the original post about Praise Referrals, and I'm no longer the administrator for a grade-level at our school, we are still finding ways to sustain a culture of high expectations for positive behavior.
The original post is below, and you can read to the end to see how we've updated the process as well as an update on the student that was highlighted in the post.
When I meet a parent of a freshmen, they often say, "My daughter/son is ________. I hope he/she never has to come to your office!" or "I guess if you don't know him/her, that's a good thing!"
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?
“At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.”
― Brené Brown
Today, our school uses a different but similar system to recognize students for positive behavior. We created a Google Form that aligns with our school's PBIS acronym, PRIDE: Productive, Respectful, Involved, Determined, Eager.
When a student displays positive behavior, a teacher or staff member fills out the form about the student. The staff member has to enter the parent's email address in the form, and there is also a place to enter other comments.
We use an add-on (Email Notifications for Google Forms) that will automatically send an email to the parent to let them know the positive comment that was written by the staff member.
The email notifications have been a huge hit with the parents, and being able to use this process in our current virtual / blended learning setting has been a wonderful addition to our school year.
What happened to the student in the original post?
He's currently pursuing a degree in education, and has been working at our school this year as a long-term sub and assistant football coach. We are thrilled to have him back at our school, and we are excited about his choice to be an educator and coach!
"We must model the behavior we want to see, and reward the positive behavior we want repeated."
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