Godwin Heights — You could feel the excitement as West Godwin Assistant Principal Casey Kroll walked into Jessica Haslacker-King’s kindergarten class. The children could see what was in Kroll’s hands and they knew today was the day a student, or maybe two, would get a silver ticket.
“I got it because I am doing well and because I am listening to my teacher,” said Aron Hurtado-Lopez as he carefully held the prized ticket in his hands.
His classmate, Renesmae Camacho Figueroa, who also received a ticket, had a big smile on her face.
“I was working really hard and I quieted my mouth,” she explained as the reason she got a ticket. “I also was waiting for the next instruction and for being responsible.” Renesmae took a quick look at Kroll, who nodded her head in agreement.
The silver tickets Kroll handed out are just one of many steps West Godwin has instituted to help encourage positive behavior.
Modeling Good Behavior
“When the district first made this building a kindergarten through second grade, there were some behavioral issues,” Kroll said. She noted that early grade level students require a lot more attention in that they are learning everything from how to be a student to going through a lunch line.
“If you think about it, in an elementary setting, it is the older students who are the role models to the younger students, modeling the good behaviors to be successful in school,” she said.
West Godwin has incorporated the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports system, which is a proactive approach to improve school safety and promote positive behavior. The program’s focus is prevention, not punishment, by calling on school staff to teach students positive behavior strategies — just as they would teach about any other subject such as math or reading.
“Three students get into a fight at school,” Kroll said by way of example. “The normal action is that they get suspended from school, a punitive action in that there is no learning taking place. What they do learn is that school is a punitive place.”
The goal is to change that narrative. But to do so, educators first have to determine what behaviors they are looking to change.
Using her past experience as the principal of Lighthouse Academy where she oversaw student behavioral issues, Kroll developed a database to help track student behavior.
When there is a behavior problem, teachers fill out a form indicating the continuum of response, ranging from green for a teacher-directed response to red for needing assistance from administration. The data automatically compiles the incidents, allowing the school to see issues by student, grade, type of behavior, time and so on.
By looking through the data, staff then can help curtail problems by reinforcing positive examples. For example, Kroll can assess that there are a high number of student behavior problems in February. The staff can consider why, such as winter fatigue among the students, and then find ways to help students through that tough month.
“We can also focus on a student who is having challenges,” Kroll said. “Say we notice a consistent pattern with a student who has just returned from lunch. It might be that a student is having a hard time making the transition from lunch to class so we would assign a different staff person (other than the student’s teacher) to meet with that student for a few minutes to help him make a better transition.”
And Then Came the Tickets
West Godwin students can earn pride tickets, worth a point apiece, which they can use to purchase items from the school store. Candy costs about 10 points while a Pop It! toy is 100 points. Listening to the teacher, being respectful in the hallways, or helping another student could earn a student a silver ticket worth 25 points or the rare golden ticket of 50 points handed out by Principal Mary Lang.
“I make a point of trying to visit each class every week and hand out a ticket to a student in each class,” Kroll said. “It makes a big difference to the student as getting a silver ticket jumps up their points and gets them closer to one of the bigger ticket items.”
Classes also can earn certificates for good behavior which can be redeemed for a special class celebration.
When an effective PBIS program is in place, a school would expect to see a minimum of 80% of the student population responding positively to first-tier interventions such as the tickets. Current data for West Godwin shows 91% of the students responding to the tier-one level, according to Kroll.
‘It really has made an impact. They have a sense of pride for being recognized for modeling that positive behavior.’— Jessica Haslacker-King, kindergarten teacher
There are some students, identified through the data collected, who are receiving individualized support with a specific staff person who checks in with the student throughout the day, she said.
In order to help students work through issues with peers, as well as learn to advocate for themselves, Kroll conducts regular restorative circles. Students are able to have their voices heard during this time by Kroll, as well as the peers where the conflict occurred. Students identify what they need from one another and then create an agreed-upon contract to help repair the harm and move forward.
“It really has made an impact,” said Haslacker-King, the kindergarten teacher. “They have a sense of pride for being recognized for modeling that positive behavior. After Mrs. Kroll leaves, we make a point to celebrate as a class with the students which also reinforces what the student did.”
Second-grade teacher Mary Acajabon said the students love getting the tickets.
“It has helped with the classroom culture because they know that wherever they are, they know they could possibly earn a ticket for what they did on the bus, in the cafeteria or in the classroom,” Acajabon said.
As Acajabon talked, Kroll moved through her classroom. Students quickly tidied up, with one girl putting her finger to her mouth to get her classmates to quiet down. Kroll slid a ticket onto second-grader Trenton Williams-Ardoin’s desk, which he slowly curled his hand around.
“I got it because I was working really hard,” Trenton said as he proudly held the ticket.
“I once got a golden ticket,” said second-grader A’sharie Sterling, who also received a silver ticket. “It was great because I got more Dojo points and I was able to put that towards something special. I am going to do the same with this one.”