It’s Friday afternoon at lunch time. A student remembers it’s “Pizza Friday” and decides to express his inner Usain Bolt by speeding down the hallway to be first in the lunch line. He’s having too much fun to stop—until a teacher steps out of the classroom and spots him.
Forgetting the rules – it happens sometimes. At Liberty, when an administrator or teacher needs to discipline a student, the primary goal is to teach them, not punish them.
Most students follow the school’s expectations, but are not properly recognized for their good behavior, according to Liberty Middle School Guidance Counselor Michelle Behrman.
That’s where Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, comes in. PBIS is a process for creating school environments that help students succeed with classwork and reach social goals, according to school officials. PBIS is aimed at enhancing practices at each school and changing the culture to make it more positive.
Through instruction, comprehension and regular practice, teachers and staff members at Liberty use a consistent set of behavior expectations and rules, she added. When some students don’t respond to teaching the rules of good behavior, the school will see it as an opportunity for re-teaching rather than punishment, she said.
This support approach, which is primarily fronted by the middle school, allows students and staff to clarify the district’s core values and expectations.
At the start of every school year, students are taught proper behavior in several parts of the building, including classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, recess and even the school bus. For example, at the lockers, voice levels are kept at an indoor recess level. In addition, students are asked to wait their turn, be helpful, use their time wisely and keep to their personal space. In the cafeteria, students are given assigned seats until they demonstrate a clear understanding about the lunchroom rules.
“We start with the values and from there we intentionally set expectations for what kindness looks like in all of these places in our school,” Mrs. Behrman said. “Teachers may even lessons around expectations in the classroom, cafeteria and so on.”
Students who follow the school’s expectations are rewarded throughout the month. A special assembly at the end of every month represents the culmination of another successful month and celebrates students who have gone above and beyond. Students are selected by their teachers in a “caught being good” sort of fashion: for an unprompted yet exceptional display of positive behavior.
The assembly is an opportunity to reflect on the prior month’s goals – what went well and what didn’t – and go over the goals for the upcoming month.
When problem behavior occurs, students receive help to address the issue. If they don’t respond, the intensity of the support increases, explained Mrs. Behrman. Problematic behavior is met with consistent consequences focused on re-teaching the behavior that’s expected of students, she said.
“If things start bubbling up at recess again, at lunch or at the lockers, we will have them redo a certain lesson,” she said. “If small groups of students seem to fall into a pattern, we [the school’s staff] will examine what we can do to help them pivot and get back on track.”
Mrs. Behrman noted this type of intervention is essential when working with young students, rather than assuming they already know how to behave in certain places.
Parents are encouraged to take a few moments to speak with their child(ren) near the beginning of each month to learn more about the school’s monthly goal.
Did you know? Liberty was the first district in Sullivan County to implement a district-wide PBIS initiative.