Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Education

Reinforcement, and rewards, fuel good behavior at Brooksville school

BROOKSVILLE — Sometimes children forget things — pencils, paper, homework, how to behave — and they need reminders. To address those issues, Eastside Elementary School assistant principal Lisa Piesik gathers students every nine weeks for behavior expectations updates.

At the beginning of the year, Piesik spoke with each grade level individually. Now she sees students two grade levels at a time and presents them with data so they can see how they are doing. The most successful are rewarded.

At the most recent meeting of fourth- and fifth-graders, Piesik announced the latest numbers. During the previous nine weeks, kindergartners had 22 disciplines. First grade had 25. Second grade had 35. Third grade tied with first grade. Fourth grade had the lowest number, 19, and fifth-graders had 50.

"I give an ice cream sundae party for the grade level with the lowest disciplines," Piesik said.

When she announced the numbers, the fourth-graders cheered. They had won for the second nine weeks in a row.

Piesik told the students there is no time for misbehaving in class. She directed their attention to the expectations posters on the cafeteria wall. The first focused on having a positive attitude: Be respectful, be ready to learn and do what the teacher says — with a smile.

The next urged students to be active learners: Do homework and class work, study, bring paper, pen and pencils to school.

"We can only do so much for you," Piesik said. "You have to be an active part of that process."

Cooperation was next: Do not argue with your teacher or your classmates. And finally, safety first: Keep your hands to yourself and behave on the bus.

Piesik touched on bullying.

"We have really done an excellent job here," she said. There hadn't been any bullying complaints.

"That tells me you know how to treat each other with respect," she said.

She reminded the students that bullying is anything that makes someone uncomfortable.

The behavior expectations meetings are part of the school's positive behavior support, or PBS, program, headed by art teacher Stephanie Hembd. There are incentives along the way to help students remember what is expected of them as the school tries to improve the failing grade it received from the state last year.

Teachers are equipped with shiny, plastic coins with "I was caught being good" embossed on them. Students collect those for incentives, like supervised physical activity time, free outdoor playtime, computer time or lunch with a teacher.

Fourth-grader Alexis Davis, 10, has been at Eastside since kindergarten and explained the benefits of the program.

"When we were in kindergarten, all you'd get was a 'good job' from your teacher, but now you get PBS points and you can buy stuff," she said.

Alexis and her classmate, Mayra Garcia, 10, mentioned what various teachers allow for certain numbers of coins: chances to sit in a beanbag chair or at the teacher's desk in her rolling chair, or to see Patrick, the music teacher's talking bird.

Fourth-grader Faith Chaika, 9, said she has seen improvements in her classmates.

"I noticed that the kids were getting to be active learners, and before they were just not doing their homework."

Piesik tied good attendance into student success and reminded the children about Mr. Brady's Attendance Challenge.

The school's social worker, Thomas Brady, offers the homeroom with the best attendance each month at each grade level some kind of treat, such as a popcorn or an ice pop party.

"If you're not here," Piesik said, "you can't learn. You have to come to school."

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