Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Didn't Like You Then, But I Love You Now

Middle Schoolers are just plain strange.

As part of our school-wide positive behavior support program (I'm not writing that again, so you'll have to deal with SWPBS), we've developed a "check-in/check-out" program with our kids that had the dubious honor of being the 15% that were always in trouble.  We started SWPBS last year, tracked a lot of data, and realized that 15% of the kids were getting about 60% of the discipline referrals.  Interesting.  So, we came up with a 2nd tier of intervention (the first tier being the school store and the money you can earn to go shopping).

This involved matching these kids up with an adult mentor (not always a teacher, but support staff as well) that the kid checked in with in the morning, and checked out with in the afternoon.  In the meantime, the kid carries around a slip that they hand to each teacher who scores them on their behavior for the day; they have a certain individual goal of points, and there's a system of rewards in place. The goal is to get them behaving like they should, to have a grown up advocate in the building, and to eventually have them learn to self-monitor their behavior.

Teachers and staff could volunteer to be a mentor and we were given a list of kids and could select ones we thought we could work with.  The student then got to look at the list of available mentors and choose whom they wanted to work with.

Well.  That was interesting.

I ended up picking Mouthy Girl who was a member of last years' Notorious Seventh Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, and then Last Word Boy who was also a member of this stellar class of children.

Mouthy Girl gave me absolute fits last year - she was a handful - always into fights, always into drama, never doing work, and just the rudest and most disrespectful little blonde fireball there ever was.  (The fact that she has a homelife from hell is part of the reason for her behavior).  However.  She hadn't been in much trouble so far in eighth grade when we got the list, and she'd even come by several times to talk, was nice, sweet, and pleasant so I thought, "What the heck?" and selected her.  Kids change.

Oh boy do they.

Apparently Mouthy Girl was ecstatic that I had selected her as a possible mentee.  (Surprised me, truth be told.)  Her enthusiasm has not waned and we've been doing this program since Thanksgiving.  She is a regular fixture in my room, comes by several times a day (in between classes, on the way to lunch, any chance she can) to get a hug, whine about something she's upset about, to get a pencil, and basically to have someone to mother her since her mother is too busy to do it herself.  The good thing is that she'll give me a head's up on a problem, I can email her teachers to let them know, and they'll keep an eye out and keep a lid on things.  In the meantime I have a kid whom my entire homeroom thinks is my real daughter as she calls me "momma" and constantly borrowing pencils, paper, etc. (which is fine, that's part of the job.)

It's paid off.  She has not had one discipline referral this year.  She's walking away from the drama.  She's not getting into fights.  And she's learned that she can be successful in academics as well (All B's and C's this nine weeks - yes!!)

Wow.  What a change.

Now to see if we can work magic with Last Word Boy.  He's new to the program.  He started before Christmas but made it only one day before he got a write-up and had enough points to earn his way back to alternative school.  He's back now, and so far, he's met his goal every day but one.  I did insist that he have a schedule change to get him away from a teacher whom he obviously had issues with, and I think that helped.  So far, so good.  His new teachers seem to like him, which is a plus.  He's a smart kid, but can be very argumentative and just hates to be corrected.  (He will admit this.)   If he can grow up, and get it together, he'll do okay.

Helping them out, one day at a time...


Jill said...

That is so great that the Check In Check Out works for your students for the most part!

I subbed in a school that had Check In and Check Out, and once I was there for the music teacher. I must have filled out 25 of those things!! Ay yi yi.

Marvelous Multiagers!

Mizz C said...

Oh, Mrs. Bluebird, hug-and-school-supplies-dispensing mentor. Your posting restores the faith that there are now some well-executed ways into kids' behaviors that aren't daily tickets to the principal's office.

My middle school colleagues and I could've used this program back in the day. Instead, the staff, under mediocre, unimaginative leadership, stuck with the insanity strategy i.e. doing the same thing but expecting different results. Way too many kids stayed in their own purgatories, also repeating behaviors but expecting different results.

Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to research this program to share with middle school teaching friends.

TeacherFromTN said...

I love this post! We will begin implementing SWPBS next year. I think building relationships with the kids is key in so many instances. Encouraging news on her turnaround.

Darren said...

7th grade boys and 8th grade girls are the two groups I didn't much like working with when I taught junior high.