Who doesn’t love a great celebration? The observance of a graduation, first job, wedding anniversary or college acceptance, celebrations are a festive and fun way to memorialize the major accomplishments in our lives. They become the “pat on the back” that keeps us motivated to keep up our good work. (After all, isn’t that what we all appreciate about our paychecks?)
Celebrations also play an important role in the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) approach to student behavior. PBIS utilizes a recognition system based on schools’ school-wide expectations. In Fletcher, those expectations include being respectful, responsible, safe and caring. Throughout the year, teachers and student leaders teach, model and practice what it looks like to follow the expectations across a variety of settings including in the classroom, halls, library and on the busses and field trips, just to name a few.
When students follow the expectations, they are often recognized for their efforts with a token, often just a small piece of paper with the school mascot or other catchy design, as well as the expectations. These tokens become the accounting – like tally marks – for their class. In Fletcher, teachers use various wall posters to accumulate the tokens. When the class reaches a set number of tokens, they celebrate.
Even more important than the token, however, is the teacher language that accompanies the recognition. Since we want students to be clear about – and repeat – the positive behavior, it is essential that the adult handing out the token name both the expectation the child met as well as the accompanying behavior.
The adults at school – both teachers and support staff – also hold themselves accountable for behavior using the same school-wide expectations. Norms for staff have been created that align with the school-wide expectations and the adults assess both themselves and the group again the norms periodically after staff meetings. The results of the self and group assessments are shared with all staff for reflection.
Classroom celebrations need not be lengthy, expensive or disruptive. In fact, celebrations like 10 minutes of special math games or reading a silly story might already be a planned part of the curriculum and don’t require teachers to change their routine or give a tangible reward.
Typically, when classes meet their set goal for earning tokens, they contribute to a larger, school-wide tally that eventually results in a school-wide celebration.
The PBIS recognition system values all three of these types of celebrations: the individual recognition when a student meets the expectations, reaching the classroom goal and achieving school-wide success. At each level, students are aware of the expectations and understand exactly what they have done and should continue to do.
Celebrations are are an essential component of PBIS. Within a larger framework of teaching, modeling and practicing accepted behavior, celebrations reinforce students for their hard work and ensure continued behavioral success.