Wylee Ricker was instructed to go to the office at Anita Scott Elementary School on a recent Tuesday morning, but the first grader wasn’t in trouble.
Instead, she was caught doing something good, and the office visit was an opportunity for Wylee to be showered with praise and rewards.
“Keep making good choices,” school receptionist Elia Salinas encouraged Wylee after presenting her a certificate, pencil, sticker and coupon for a fast-food kid’s meal.
Scenes like this are repeated several times each school day at the Royse City elementary school.
The presentations are part of a new school program -— “PAWS Guidelines for Success.” The program focuses on teaching the young students appropriate behavior in common areas — hallways, restrooms, playground and cafeteria.
PAWS is an acronym for the guidelines for success — Positive attitude; Act responsibly; Wise choices; and Stay focused.
PAWS is geared toward praising students more often than correcting, as well as celebrating students through incentives when they are observed following the guidelines for success.
Dr. Dianna Bright, assistant principal, said there are several types of positive reinforcement to help students develop the guidelines — or “habits” — for success.
Students who are seen following a guideline for success will be praised and handed a PAWS ticket by a teacher. The student will take the ticket to the office and receive a certificate, sticker, pencil and other rewards. A “PAWS-itive” phone call will also be made to the child’s parents.
The student will place the sticker on the “100 Club Board.” When the board is filled with 100 stickers, there will be a drawing for various prizes. After a student receives four tickets, they will receive an “I Earned My PAWS” T-shirt.
Bright said highlights of the program for her are seeing the smiles of students when they get a PAWS ticket, followed by praise and rewards.
She also enjoys making the telephone call to parents. Some parents, however, are not so excited about hearing from her — at first. They are relieved when they find out why their child’s assistant principal made the telephone call.
“’Dr. Bright, what did he do?’” she said some alarmed parents have asked.
“’No, it’s positive. Your child got a PAWS ticket,’” Bright said she tells the parents. “I just want them to know how proud we are.”
She said some parents have cried when they learned of their child’s accomplishment, and some who know about the program have responded by saying, “’I never thought my child would get one.’”
PAWS is part of the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) initiative, a national program that’s offered locally through the Region 10 Education Service Center.
The program is in the implementation phase at Scott Elementary School, the second of a three-year commitment.
Last year, Bright and six teachers were trained and are the program’s team leaders. Each team leader has an ambassador group of teachers from each grade level that meets monthly to discuss ways to improve school climate, improve discipline, provide safety and to look at problems and solutions.
The basics of the program, according to Bright, involve teachers and staff members modeling what they want students to do and how they want them to act.
“The initiative says we should model,” Bright said. “We shouldn’t expect students to already have perfect behavior. We shouldn’t expect students to know how to eat in the cafeteria.
“The whole program is about teachers and administrators modeling how you should act, what you should do.”
A primary reason team leaders Stuart Powley, counselor, and Suzette Worley, a special education teacher, like the program is because it’s a campus-wide initiative.
“It standardizes our expectations across the whole campus,” Powley said.
For example, he pointed out that there are universal signals for the four different voice levels that are allowed at specific times.
“Before, everybody was doing their own thing,” he said. “It worked, but when you went from class to class, there were different signals, verbal instructions and commands.”
“The feedback I’ve gotten from the kids and the teachers is they really enjoy it because it is a schoolwide thing,” Worley commented. “Everybody is going off the same expectation and it addresses the common areas — the hallways, the cafeteria, the playground and the restrooms.
“It addresses those areas where you have so many grade levels at one place and so it gives a sense of cohesiveness, where everybody is on the same page.
Worley said expectations are the same for kids at all grade levels.
“The fourth graders are expected to walk down the hall quietly and the kindergartners are supposed to walk down the hall quietly,” she said.
Bright believes the PAWS program is a major reason there has been a dramatic decrease in “calls to classroom” — classroom situations that require the assistance of the counselor or assistant principal.
Here’s why Bright believes that figure is on the decline:
“We’re showing kids how to act. We’re modeling. We’re rewarding. We’re teaching our teachers how to deal with classroom management and our ambassador team meets twice a month to talk about problems they have and the possible solutions.”
The focus is on the kids, Bright said.
“Kids need to know this could be a fun place,” she said. “Maybe there are a lot of times a kid will do good and not get any praise. Or, they may not make straight A’s. But here, they get PAWS tickets and they get praise. I love that.”