Monday afternoon, Sandhill Elementary School principal Jeff Fimreite was covered nearly head to toe in dripping pink slime his students had dumped all over him.
And he couldn’t have been more pleased.
These weren’t naughty kids gone wild – in fact, they were some of the most well-behaved students in the school. Fimreite was just “taking one for the team” by getting slimed as a reward for kids’ positive behavior so far this year.
And while not all elementary schools have principal-sliming assemblies, they’re finding creative ways to promote the district’s PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) initiative, from handing out colored cards to getting tickets for rewards.
To help teach all students good behavior, Stoughton Area School District staff began using the PBIS framework in 2012 to reinforce positive behavior, rather than focusing on negative ones. While it’s been in place for six years, PBIS continues to evolve.
The students love it, administrators say, and best of all, principals at all three elementaries say, it’s showing positive results in their behavior.
Kegonsa Elementary School principal Erin Conrad said in one year, the schools has cut our “major” behavior referrals by over half, and in some months they are down by 70 percent.
“Our referrals continue to go down,” she said.
Fimreite said schools collect data on behaviors to see what skills need to be emphasized or re-taught – something that’s going on right now at Sandhill.
“We’re watching videos on hallway expectations, lunchrooms ecpation, recess expectations … what does it look like to be a good friend when you’re in the lunchroom, what does it look like to be positive leader when you’re in the lunchroom or in the hallway or in the bathroom,” he said.
Major referrals are also “pretty low” at Sandhill, Fimreite said, which is something worth getting slimed for.
“It’s been really good,” he said. “ Students are benefiting from rewarding positive behaviors, and when we hold up the student who are acting and doing things appropriately, then other students want to strive to do the best they can.”
Friends at Fox Prairie
At Fox Prairie Elementary School, principal Krista Huntley-Rogers said a large part of PBIS is reinforcing to kids what behavior is expected of them.
During the beginning of school and after longer breaks like Thanksgiving or winter break, the staff focuses on reteaching expectations to “set the students up for success.”
“It’s unrealistic to expect students to know what to do in all situations,” she said in an email to the Hub. “So teachers spend a lot of time making sure students know the expectations.”
Fox Prairie students can earn “Fox Fours” for following the school expectations of “Be Safe, Be Kind, Do Your Part and Speak Up.” Tickets can be used to redeem items from the school’s Fox Den cart each week, such as Lunch Bunch with a Staff Member, Bring a Stuffed Animal to School and Sit in a Special Chair for a Day.
Students can work together to earn rewards for positive behavior as well. Golden Fox tickets are earned by a whole class for excellent behavior in the hallways, classroom, lunchroom, ENCORE (Music, Art, PE, Library), fire drills or having a clean coat hook area.
Every time a class earns a ticket, a star is put up on a bulletin board to show how many tickets have been earned. The school holds three assemblies each year in which the students find out which class has the most Golden Fox tickets in each category, with winning classes getting a privilege like an extra recess or special day, and a traveling trophy to display outside their classroom.
Huntley-Rogers said classes are now working together to earn enough tickets to hold a “Day of Fun,” with options of swimming at the high school for the upper grades, rollerblading, coding, yoga, arts and crafts or watching a movie.
“We’re hoping to earn enough tickets to celebrate by the end of March,” she said.
Smiles at Sandhill
Sandhill Elementary gives out green, yellow and red tickets for behavior, with the idea to get green slips, which given for positive behavior.
Yellow and red tickets are also handed out for infractions considered minor or major, respectively, but Fimreite said the idea is to give out more greens than any other color.
?We all know kids will do well if they can, and it helps us to be able to build those relationships,” he told the Hub on Monday. “We’re not building resentments on kids, based on all negative stuff, we’re rewarding the kids who are doing well.”
While all schools have differing methods of promoting PBIS, they recently came together to standardize what’s considered “minor” or “major” infractions, for consistency as students advance through grade levels. At the elementary level, minors are things like students “not getting along or shouting, or not being good friends to one another,” Fimreite said, while a major would be something like fighting or “examples of aggression.”
“Our goal is to ultimately reward the positive behaviors and maybe also try to get the negative behaviors so they don’t continue them,” he said. “It’s more awareness of problem-solving abilities.”
When students get 10 green slips, they enter their name in a box for a weekly PBIS awards during lunchtime on Fridays. The school also holds “pride celebrations” where kids can celebrate as a class for positive behavior.
“Each class picks an hour to come up on stage and play games, or we’ll have extra recesses,” he said.
Or in some cases, they get to slime the principal.
“I like to get involved as well – I’m willing to get slimed,” Fimreite said with a laugh. “We like to make sure we give whatever we can to students, as far as rewards for that positive behavior. I think they really enjoy it.”
He credits Sandhill’s PBIS committee for “helping to guide this whole process,” including staff surveys to “make sure we follow the PBIS matrix.”
“We work as a team,” Fimreite said.
Caring at Kegonsa
Conrad said staff there have worked hard to have a “strong universal system of support,” including proactive strategies for defining, teaching and supporting appropriate student behavior.
She said the staff is now working to refine PBIS programming to include adult-student and peer mentoring, and staffers recently attended a two-day training session.
“PBIS works at Kegonsa because we have an exceptional staff who are committed to ensuring a strong universal and secondary system of behavioral support,” she said in an email to the Hub. “We have learned so much in the last year and we continue to refine and expand our systems of support.”
School counselor Jake Schultz said staff has combined PBIS with training in “responsive classrooms,” which uses restorative conferences to help when problems arise between students.
“When students have the opportunity to gather around the same table, we are able to ensure that all voices are heard and valued,” he wrote the Hub in an email. “This allows us to get to the core of a problem with everyone involved, which allows for a quicker resolution.”
He said the conversations have been extremely helpful in resolving miscommunications between teachers and students, peer conflicts and much, much more.”