Modeling Positive Procedures and Expectations the First Week of School

New School Year's Day was last Monday, and it was everything I hoped it would be and more. Our school is still under renovation, but the majority of the classrooms are done and beautiful.

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Our cafeteria should be done by October. Until then, the students pick up their food from Room 13 and eat outside. Traditionally, Central California does not experience wet and cool weather until October-November anyway. Of course, in our severe drought conditions, we would not say no to much needed rain.

One change that we have instituted this year is a 30-minute daily Skills class where character (Mondays), intervention skills (Tuesdays-Thursdays), and C-SEMS (Fridays) are taught. We are a Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) school district. We believe that we must teach our students positive expectations and model that behavior. Twice a week we will do just that with character and Compton School-wide Expectations for Model Student lessons, discussions, and activities.

Three times a week, we will work on intervention skills that will help our students succeed. Currently, students are returning to their Advisory class each day after 4th Period for this 30-minute Skills class. Once each student has been evaluated, their intervention teacher will change every 3 weeks. Some students will need to work on quadratic equations (high level math); others will need to work on Close Reading strategies at varying levels.

Because rules and procedures were taught for four days this week during our Skills class, I had no need to spend the entire English period going over the same thing. Instead, I modeled and reinforced three expected behaviors as I taught the Private Journal v. Public Paper Blog lesson.

Expectation 1

All students will greet the teacher at the door with a smile, make brief eye contact, and give a handshake or Japanese bow.

Professor John Hattie argues that establishing teacher credibility increases student learning (0.90 effect). In a 2012 interview with Darren Evans entitled Make them believe you, Professor Hattie said,
The key is the students’ perception that teachers have credibility in enhancing their learning. Students are very perceptive about knowing which teachers can make a difference to their learning. And teachers who command this credibility are most likely to make the difference.
The effects on achievement are high and the reason is that teachers who constantly show students they care, and know about the difference and impact they are having on them, are ‘visible’ and welcomed.
With 180+ students, I establish that I care by greeting each student as an individual at the door. Because many of my students come from cultures where eye contact with an adult is considered disrespectful, I reiterate every day that brief eye contact, especially if there is a smile in the eye, is considered respectful in the United States. I explain that you do not stare down an adult, and I demonstrate how creepy it looks when a person stares. This usually results in a laugh. I have one student who purposely bulges his eyes and pushes his face forward everyday, but he is laughing and we are establishing a comfortable relationship that will translate into strong academics skills later.

Not every student wants to shake my hand; I teach junior high, after all. Their hands are sweaty and nervous or the student just wants to be different. In this case, students are given the opportunity to give a Japanese bow. After warning me that we are about to bow (I would hate to bump heads), the student briefly makes eye contact, looks at the ground, and bows 15 degrees. Any more than 15 degrees would indicate that I am a goddess meant to be worshiped. "While I am a goddess, we have to be careful who knows it," I tell my students with a smile.

Greeting each student as an individual is not the only way to establish teacher credibility, but it is a good start.

Expectation 2

All students will say "Good morning, Mrs. Scott" when their name is called during roll call. "Here," "What?" and "Ya!" are unacceptable responses. I will model how to greet me and patiently wait until I am greeted appropriately.

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to teach 1st Grade Summer School. I have not taught 1st Grade since 1999-2000. As such, it was quite an experience! My 1st Graders taught me many new things. One of which was how to greet the teacher.
"Mrs. Scott," said one soon-to-be 1st Grader, "Our kindergarten teacher taught us to say 'Good morning, Mr. Fitzpatrick' during roll call."
As the year progress and I memorize all 180+ student names and faces, I will not have to take additional class time for roll call. But right now, I am loving greeting each student with "Good morning, Ray" and hearing "Good morning, Mrs. Scott" in return. I model what I expect out of my students. This greeting during roll call establishes a respectful atmosphere. Thank you 1st Grade students and kindergarten teacher Mr. Fitzpatrick for teaching me this.

Expectation 3

The 3-minute clean-up bell does not dismiss you; my iPad will play the class song 1 minute before the final bell. You may NOT put your things away until you hear the class song.

After 12 years of double period English, my school district has returned to single period English and every minute counts. The 3-minute clean bell takes valuable time away from class. But, since I value my students' time, I do allow them to clean up before the final class bell. When this runs smoothly, my students work until they hear "Love Shack" or "Don't Worry, Be Happy" before they quietly put their interactive writing notebooks away. The final class bell rings, and I quietly wave goodbye.


Did everything run smoothly this week? No. I had to remind students, "Don't take my smile and my niceness as a license to take advantage of me. I am a military child, sister, and wife. I know how to boot camp!"

I also messed up. I called out a student in front of the class when he rudely interrupted me as I explained a skill in Spanish to two students who had just arrived to the United States. If I don't want students to call me out publicly, then I shouldn't call them out publicly either. Patrick, please consider this my apology.

Surprisingly, my smile coupled with my enthusiasm still scared some students. The fact that students know I run lunch detention, have no problems calling parents, and hold students accountable for their behavior helps students behave accordingly. The fact the I respect students and acknowledge my own failings helps, too. Positive behavior reinforcement is not all "Kumbaya" and fuzzy unicorns; it is about teaching, modeling, and expecting positive behaviors.

As the year progresses, the hard work and relationship building activities we accomplished during the first weeks of school will pay off in dividends. The work is by no means over, but we have had a good start.


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