As students in the Oregon School District progress from elementary school to eventually walking across the dais with their high school diplomas, they’re constantly learning not only academics, but social and emotional skills.

It’s a process steadily evolving throughout the grade levels. It starts with concepts like “Everyday Superheroes” spreading kindness at Netherwood and evolves into Rome Corners Intermediate School students vying to have good deeds recognized at “ROAR assemblies.”

By the time students reach middle and high school, the foundation is set for the next level.

At Oregon Middle School, the focus for tweens and young teens is on respecting themselves, others and their surroundings, highlighted by weekly circles, where each student gets a turn to talk about issues important to them.

At Oregon High School, students prepare for the “real world” by a four-year course in “Panther PRIDE,” learning life skills like responsibility and empathy and taking a more active role in their education.

All of these initiatives relate to the pillar of the district’s social-emotional education concept, Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports (PBIS). The district has been incorporating it bit by bit over the past decade as part of a focus on the “whole child.”

While the use of PBIS has evolved differently throughout the various K-12 schools, educators have worked to build a cohesive, consistent culture of positivity, with the goal of smoother transitions as students progress to the higher grade levels.

A big key to it is working with a “common language” and engaging in similar practices, said district social/emotional learning coach Janet Pliner, who works at RCI, OMS and OHS.

“It’s consistent across buildings; the routines and expectations,” she told the Observer last week. “That’s so important for students, regardless of what the expectations are (and) we’re all here to help build that into the school culture.

“Ultimately, it’s all about giving kids the skills they need to be successful – socially, emotionally and academically,” she added.

Being proactive is also a key, Pliner said. That means consistent teaching – and reteaching – when necessary.

“The more proactive you are, the less time you have to spend reacting,” she said. “You can’t expect when kids come to a new building they’re going to know the routines and expectations.

“On the playground, if you don’t define where are the boundaries, eventually, you’re out talking to kids who aren’t in the right spot,” she added.

The OMS Way

Once students get to middle school (seventh and eighth grade), they learn respecting yourself, your surroundings and others as part of the “OMS Way.”

Those messages are reinforced as students begin to take more ownership of their social/emotional learning in preparation for high school. Among the activities are meeting in groups or “circles” to talk about weekly lessons and holding “reteach circles” when students are struggling to meet expectations.

PBIS-related lessons are taught during 20-minute mid-morning “daily connections.” Those include Monday group gatherings where students address issues like social media and bullying, followed by a related lesson Tuesday.

Trained student “circle-keepers” lead the circles, and on Mondays they give prompts that tie into the lesson to be taught the following day.

“It sort of gives them an introduction to the topic, and everybody has an opportunity to participate,” Pliner said.

The Tuesday topics are more general ones, she said. But “if something needs a booster,” students will work with staff and the school’s PBIS team to come up with lessons.

Students also work with OMS educators to come up with schoolwide “matrix” of expectations, which are “explicitly taught and reinforced,” said OMS PBIS coach Kit Laibly.

To help re-teach expectations and get students to take more ownership in the process, Laibly said OMS staff use “reteach circles” for students who receive multiple referrals for similar behaviors.

“In these circles, the behavior expectation is re-taught using an applicable PBIS POW (Play of the Week) Lesson followed by student ownership of their behavior and plans to repair the harm and do things differently in the future,” Labily wrote in an email to the Observer.

One PBIS-based strategy that’s proven successful for students struggling with a particular task has been “check-in, check-out,” Anderson said. It helps students meet specific goals and provides them with regular feedback on how they’re progressing by having a staff member touch base with them at the beginning and end of the day.

“I can think of one student who really struggled with coming to class on time and staying engaged,” Anderson said. “When we developed a check-in, check out plan with her, her tardies decreased and she engaged more in her classes. (That) process provided her with adult feedback and positive interactions throughout the day and that helped her to stay on track.”

OHS: Pride crew

At the final stop for students, the focus of social/emotional learning is all about PRIDE – positivity, responsibility, involvement, development and empathy.

PBIS-related lessons are taught during advisory periods twice a month, and they are continuing to evolve.

This year, Pliner and OHS associate principal Brad Ashmore worked with a group of student council volunteers on a list of expectations and on the Panther PRIDE acronym.

“We asked them to really be thoughtful about how we can (connect) PBIS and social emotional learning in a way to get student buy in and really tie everything together,” Pliner said. “We talked about what do in addition to academics – what do Oregon high school students need to be successful? That’s what we want Panther PRIDE to be about.”

Pliner said she and Ashmore thought the best way to “kick off” the new slogan was to get students involved, as “Panther PRIDE” was the topic of many lessons this past school year.

“We want to try to incorporate as many students and staff voices into a lot of the lesson topics,” she said. “The goal is to get students talking about why this is important.”

Getting buy-in from student leaders is key, Ashmore said.

“It was great to have a group of kids committed to helping in that process and trying to get us focused on the traits we want our students to possess by the time they’re done as graduates at Oregon High School,” he wrote the Observer in an email.

It also helps that by the time they reach high school, students have a good idea of what’s expected of them. Ashmore said while every building has “different focuses within the PBIS model,” it’s important to have those “common universal expectations.”

“You’re trying to look at positive behaviors students are doing and using those as a model,” he said. “That’s ideally what PBIS is all about, really fixating and focusing on the things you want and expect your students to do, and when you have those common expectations, it’s easier for all students.”