Cleaners, bus wardens and security guards are joining a school-wide effort to improve student behavior at John Gray High School.
The support staff will play a role in handing out “high-five” cards to students who do the right things as part of a broader effort to create a positive school climate.
School leaders say the aim is to help students build good relationships with the support staff and reinforce good behavior across all areas of the school.
Pat Forbes, deputy head at the school, said teachers already hand out the reward cards to students who follow the school’s values – right time, right place, respect, responsibility and achievement. Now the support staff are able to do the same.
“We don’t want them to only write up students when they misbehave, we want them to be able to reward them as well and build up those positive interactions.”
The initiative is part of a wider effort to create a positive school environment.
It is part of the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system being rolled out across all Cayman Islands schools this year. Based on the work of U.S. academic George Sugai, the system focuses on positive reinforcement, modeling good behavior and targeted interventions for students who consistently break the rules.
Sean Cahill, policy adviser in the Ministry of Education, said it was essentially a framework that established leadership teams within each school responsible for managing and monitoring initiatives to create a positive school climate.
He said the aim was to change the atmosphere in schools to help cut out low level misbehavior.
“If we can get a positive school climate we get to 90 percent of the kids, making sure they are on time, they are respectful. It promotes social skills and reduces the opportunities to get into trouble.”
He said the next phase of the system focused on interventions for students who continued to break the rules.
Jon Clark, principal of John Gray, said the system helped to keep positive attitudes to learning at the front of the agenda.
He said, “This gives students a chance to achieve without necessarily being top of the class academically – they can still pick up praise for positive attitude. We praise their efforts as well as where they end up and hopefully that helps prevent them from becoming disillusioned and disengaging, which is where we see that misbehavior creeping in.
“We are trying to reward and encourage a positive attitude to learning, even if you are not yet getting 90 percent on a test.”
He said bringing the support staff into the mix was aimed at achieving consistency across all areas of the school from the bus, to the canteen, to the classroom.
Cleaners will give a trophy for the best kept classroom for the week, while the security guards will hand out rewards for good behavior.
Mr. Clark added, “We have had security guards ask us, ‘are we allowed to talk to the students?’ The answer is of course they are. We want every adult here to model positive behavior and build good relationships with the kids.
“The test of having that school climate right is for the students to treat everybody with the same respect as they treat me.”
He said the expectations on the children would increase as the system became more familiar.
“It is not about rewarding kids for things they should be doing anyway. We might start by giving out high-fives for turning up to lessons on time, but really that should be the norm. Bit by bit we have to move the expectations to the next level.”
Mr. Cahill said every school, through the PBIS framework, had set up school climate leadership teams responsible for coming up with similar initiatives.