Technology Helps Orchestrate Life Lessons on the Path to Responsibility
By Autumn Miller
Growing up, Chris Polly played a lot of sports, and he realizes now that this is where he learned some of the biggest life lessons. His coaches and teachers were important role models who taught him what it means to be an adult.
Now as the Dean of Students at Renaissance Charter School at Pines in Pembroke Pines, Florida, Dean Polly feels it’s his job to give back; it’s his turn to build strong, successful young adults. But to reach every child at a K-8 school with 1,450 students, he knew he would need some help. So for that, he turned to a technology partner, Hero.
Dean Polly had used Hero’s student behavior management platform at a previous school, and he knew how it could change a campus and its students. The software is designed to help educators manage negative behaviors – but also to reinforce good ones – making it ideal for implementing a positive behavior reinforcement framework on a huge, schoolwide scale.
Dean Polly’s plan was to use Hero to track the good choices students make, like acting kindly towards others or treating the school’s environment respectfully, and to reward those actions with points. This would shift the focus of student-adult interactions from negative to positive, laying foundations for more meaningful relationships. Respect is a two-way street, Dean Polly believes, and it’s important to give kids respect if you, as an adult, want to get it back in return. So far, he’s seen this pay off with his students through improved relationships and a noticeable drive to exhibit good behavior across the board.
Not everyone is perfect, however, so when students mess up, Renaissance Charter at Pines is using Hero to redirect rather than punish smaller infractions like tardiness, chewing gum, and uniform violations. Students don’t lose points when these occur, but if a student has multiple small infractions, a student can end up in Saturday detention (since accountability is an equally important lesson, after all).
Part of the school’s long-term plan is to let students cash in their positive points to get out of Saturday detention – assuming detention was the consequence of minor infractions like chewing gum. It’s all part of Dean Polly’s plan to foster the emotional growth of his students. It’s okay to make mistakes, he wants to teach his kids, as long as they learn from them. How a student bounces back from a problem can have profound impact on maturity and responsibility later in life.
One thing that’s helped make Hero successful for Renaissance Charter at Pines is the entire community’s support. All of the school’s teachers are using Hero in their classrooms, which is building equity in the school’s discipline policy. And since every student can earn positive points, it’s helping educators reach not just the best (or worst) behaving students. Each child in the school has equal opportunity to be successful.Families are more involved now, too, since the school is using automated notifications in Hero to share student progress. When Dean Polly has a parent conference, he relies on Hero’s data as evidence for any reprimands, which explicitly marks the specific behavior and when it occurred. There’s no room to argue over what may or may not have happened so the conversation with parents is no longer focused on evidence. Instead, they focus on the most important thing, resolution and moving forward. This is leading to greater trust and cooperation between families and the school faculty.
Dean Polly says he can not only feel the improved climate but he can actually see the progress on paper. Referrals are down 50% from last year and suspensions have dropped substantially. Just over the course of one year, the school is on track to log 50% fewer total suspensions.
For Dean Polly, seeing this proof is heartening and affirming, but there is something more important happening. Seeing these positive changes take place before his eyes – students transforming into responsible young adults – is what will continue to inspire him, day in and day out.
About the Author:
Autumn Miller is an educational writer who is deeply passionate about making society more equitable — and the educational brands that are leading the way. More of her words and ideas can be found at HeroK12.com and SchoolMint.com.
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