accentuating the positive
A parent called me last month about the possibility of her son attending JRA. He was being counseled out of his current private school, and she was feeling quite nervous. Her concerns were all legitimate: he’d be devastated to leave his group of friends, and we were SO small compared to where he’d been. And that point system wouldn’t work with him; they’d tried point systems before and he hated them. But she was feeling desperate, so we decided to give it a try and we set up a visit.
Brandon had a great visit. He made an immediate friend, and all the other kids liked him as well. He loved art class and kickball. He didn’t say a word about the point sheet and dutifully carried it from class to class.
Our point sheet is set up in fifteen minute intervals, with points given in three areas: being kind, following directions, and participating in a positive way. There is a space for bonus points, which are given anytime we see someone doing something difficult, being extra kind, or just plain rising above our baseline expectations. If they don’t meet expectations, they get a dot. There is also a space for comments, which we make anytime they get a bonus or a dot.
Any student who gets two or fewer dots by the end of the day gets a twenty minute Harbor Time, in which students can choose from a variety of activities: knitting, art, break dancing, drama, drumming, playground, IPad games, board games, Jenga, or silent reading. Not every option is open every day and they sign up in the morning for the activity they hope to earn. If they don’t make Harbor Time, nothing bad happens, but nothing particularly fun does either. They just hang with Ms Houser or me while the others are participating in an activity.
In Brandon’s previous schools, because of his behavior he was the only one who had a point sheet. It was embarrassing to take it up to the teacher because it so clearly marked him as the problem. At JRA, everyone has a sheet. Two of our kids have never had a single dot and it’s a source of great pride for them. And we tally bonus points at the end of each day and carry them over to the next; when they get ten, they get a coupon that can be turned in for special field trips, extra IPad time, and even to buy back a dot.
The night of Brandon’s successful visit, his mother went up to tuck him in. “Can I start at JRA tomorrow?” he asked. She hadn’t expected THAT. “Why?” she asked. His first reason was that he appreciated not having homework, a sentiment his mother shared. He really liked the kids and kickball and art. “And I like getting a list of all the things I did right at the end of the day,” he continued. His mom was taken aback for a moment. “What list?” she asked him. “The point sheet,” he replied. And sure enough, there on his point sheet was a series of checks, with five bonus points and their explanation: good sportsmanship in kickball, reading the entire silent reading time, bringing a vegetable for lunch, collaboration in science, and taking a placement test in math.
Brandon isn’t used to getting a list of things he has done right because there is so much focus on what he does wrong that the good things get forgotten. One of the things his parents were most worried about turned out to be one of his favorite things.
We were happy to receive his application for 2012-13 year and we look forward to his attendance next year.