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Positive choices bring on the "bling" in December

Photo of students and staffJanuary 9, 2015 — Where can cleaning up a lunch-table spill earn you a pair of hand-crafted earrings? Or speaking kindly to others earn you a new soccer ball?

At Glens Falls Middle School, of course!

The rewards are part of the school-wide positive behavior program called PBIS- Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports. Today, in its third year, the program is thriving by providing positive incentives for good behaviors—and these days, faculty are giving out a whole lot of incentives.

"It has been working really well," says Assistant Principal Laurie Parker about the PBIS program. "The majority of the teachers have embraced it and see a value in it." Since the start of the program, discipline referrals have dropped by over a third.

"I think having the common language is really important for kids and adults to talk about behavior" Ms. Parker adds.

photo of staff and studentsIn December, students earned "Bling Bucks" every time they were seen doing the right thing. They can earn them for many different reasons, whether it is having good manners in the cafeteria or bringing back homework on time.

Before their December break, students were able to use their "Bling Bucks" in the Bling Bucks store to buy holiday gifts for family, friends, or themselves. The store offers a variety of new and gently-used donated items.

"So many people have contributed a variety of items from clothes, games, decorations and homemade items such as jewelry and make up bags," says Elaine Hersey, the Middle School Psychologist.

French teacher Stephanie Ruel donated 35 cosmetic bags filled with sample size toiletries. The majority of the bags were handmade with colorful quilted fabric that Mrs. Ruel had purchased. This is the second year that she has made this contribution.

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This year, the Bling Bucks store featured wooden blocks made by students.

"They are proud using their behavior rewards to purchase something for a family member, " explains Mrs. Ruel. "For me, it's gratifying to make something special for them to buy."

Students also got involved in donating items. Middle School special education teacher Stacy Riley and her class used free wood they found to create decorative blocks. The students spent several days of hard work on sanding and painting each block.

"One of the best parts of the project for me was the kudos the kids in this class kept getting from their same age peers about how cool the blocks were. Many times kids would stop by and say 'Hey Mrs. Riley. Is this the class that is making those wood blocks?' They would then turn to the class and say 'Hey guys, these are awesome'," says Mrs. Riley. "It was definitely so heartwarming to see the pride on my students faces."

The Middle School Parent-Teacher-Student-Association also donated boxes, ribbon, bows, and volunteer time to help wrap gifts that students bought for family or friends. "The students are thrilled to be able to take gifts home. Many of them wrap them and bring them home," says Ms. Hersey.

photo of staff and studentsThe store has been an annual event since the start of the PBIS program. The program uses a building-wide instructional approach to behavior and classroom management to help schools improve their educational climate. "Success" in the program is defined as more time being spent on academics and less time being spent on behavioral problems. The school uses posters and a daily morning announcements to remind the students of the importance of positive behavior.

As part of the program, students earn "Target Tickets" when a staff member sees them behaving appropriately. Throughout the year "Target Tickets" can be used for weekly drawings for prizes such as desserts or the opportunity to each lunch outside. In addition, there is a larger raffle at the end of the year where prizes are much larger and can range from a bike or a skateboard to an iPod. During the month of December, "Target Tickets" become "Bling Bucks."

Students have become very excited about the program, especially during the holiday season when they can earn "Bling Bucks." While the younger fifth and sixth graders seem to take advantage of the program the most, students of all ages are enjoying the benefits of being "caught in the act."