Clear expectations result in positive behaviors

PBIS program takes away guess work for students

Paw tickets. 3RS tickets. Bucket Filler Tickets. Stamps. PACK Cash. What are they and why should I be talking about them with my child?

Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) is a behavior management program being used successfully across the nation and more specifically in the Mifflin County School District.

The key element of PBIS is to teach children clear expectations for behaviors in school. For instance, let’s assume that you tell your children to get ready for dinner. In one house that may look like the children putting their toys and devices away, washing their hands and moving to their chair in the kitchen. In another home, that may look like grabbing a plate of prepared food and taking it to the living room while eating in front of the television. In another house, that may mean everyone heads to the refrigerator and gets what they want for dinner. The expectations are clear for each home, but when we merge 300 or more students into one building, the lines of expectations become blurred and inconsistent.

PBIS takes away the guesswork. The students are taught specific lessons at the beginning of each school year and given refresher lessons as the year progresses. Lessons on expectations in the hall (zero voice), restroom etiquette (hand washing), cafeteria, playground, and bus lessons are taught. The students know and understand the expectations for behaviors in all areas of their school day. Not only does this help each individual understand what is expected, it also allows for a common language to be used by the staff. So instead of telling a class to “quiet down,” “lower your voices,” or “shhhh,” PBIS allows all staff members, for example, to say, “Please use a number one voice.” The students have been taught what that is and know how to use it!

Where do the tickets come in? When students are observed following respectful, responsible, ready, or safe behaviors, they can be awarded a ticket by any staff member. These tickets are a way of acknowledging the student. The tickets are then deposited into a prize bucket weekly, and random tickets are pulled from the bucket. The goal is that all students have a ticket pulled throughout the year.

The real prize, however, is the acknowledgement from the staff member. When a student receives a ticket, the student is given feedback for what he or she has done to receive it: “Thank you for being respectful and using a zero voice in the hall.” “We appreciate that you were responsible and made sure your desk was ready to go.” “You were very safe when you stopped to pick up the napkin that had fallen on the floor.” All of these are phrases that our students hear on a daily basis.

When we can share with students the joys of reaching classroom or school-wide goals, we always celebrate. Each school has its own way of celebrating. Those are days when the children realize that their respectful, responsible, ready, and safe behaviors really do make a difference.

So, now what? You can talk about the expectations with your child. You can reinforce respectful, responsible, ready, and safe behaviors outside the school setting. You can feel pride in knowing that your child is being acknowledged for positive behaviors throughout the day. You can feel confident that your child’s school is being proactive in meeting his or her social and emotional needs. Last year, well over 100,000 tickets were awarded to our MCSD students. That means that over 100,000 times our MCSD students heard something positive. We all need to take pride in that piece of data!

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Diane Stewart is the assistant principal at East Derry Elementary School and Indian Valley Elementary School.