Cleaners, security staff to be school role models

Cleaners at John Gray High School will hand out trophies for the best kept classroom. Back row, Venesha Peart, Gloria Brown and Marcia Gardener of A1 Cleaning Services. Front row, Year 7 students Carson McField, Deneisha Taylor, Dailyn Powery and John Ebanks.
Cleaners at John Gray High School will hand out trophies for the best kept classroom. Back row, Venesha Peart, Gloria Brown and Marcia Gardener of A1 Cleaning Services. Front row, Year 7 students Carson McField, Deneisha Taylor, Dailyn Powery and John Ebanks.

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.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting that security guards on school grounds don’t know what they are allowed to to do and what not.
    The Finnish school system is where I would look for a guidance on rewarding children.
    “Finnish educators take care NOT to hold students back or label them as “failing,” since such actions would cause student failure, lessen student motivation, and increase social inequality. ”
    Positive and negative labels involve subjective interpretation of behavior. Understanding, interpreting and handling child’s behaviour requires educational background in child development. Some kids (especially boys) are more active than others, there are normal variations in children behaviour. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn would be regarded today as having ADHD and given prescriptions for Ritalin.
    So it is disturbing that “labeling” children will be in hands of the school’s support staff who should have no business here at all.
    It seems to me that Positive Behavior Intervention and Support system is flawed. It encourages labeling children as good or bad with stupid reward cards, creating inequality, exactly the opposite to the educational philosophy in Finland.

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  2. WhIle we know what Schools are supposed to be all about . Why are we allowing these other people to be able to reward these kids for DEVELOPMENT ? I think that this is going to give kids a mixed message to who they are supposed to be listening to .

    I think that it should be the responsibility of Teachers for rewarding and to be teaching discipline and respect in the Schools class rooms . No one kid should be rewarded for keeping the the class room clean , unless that was a program that is a part of the school and that kid was the leader of the program , and that whole team should be rewarded , with special reward for the leadership .

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