Students at the Memorial School in Medfield are on the alert because they know that they could get called out for their behavior at any time. When they make a good choice or do something nice for someone, they may just get recognized for it.
When they get “caught” doing good, they get a sticker that says, “Today I did a great job showing _______________. Ask me how!”
This special recognition is a way of encouraging students to be good to each other and to spark conversations so their actions will have a ripple effect throughout the school.
It’s part of the Choose To Be Nice SEL Program that the suburban school implemented this year. The program includes curriculum and activities centered around nine character traits: respect, kindness, acceptance, teamwork, honesty, responsibility, friendship, patience and courage.
With a student population of nearly 400 students in kindergarten and first grade, the staff had been looking for a program that would help students learn about kindness in a meaningful way when Principal Melissa “Missy” Bilsborough discovered Choose To Be Nice.
“Sometimes, we expect kids to know how to behave without really teaching them what that means,” she said. “This program has really been wonderful in terms of allowing us to do that.”
The program includes activities for the entire school as well as the individual classrooms. Each month, a new character trait is introduced along with one of nine mice that represents that trait. Additionally, materials are sent home so families can echo what is happening in school.
The program grabs students’ attention and is easy for them to understand, Missy explained.
Staff and students launched the program with a kickoff ceremony at the beginning of the school year. Students were encouraged to make the Choose To Be Nice Promise. Then, they made it official by signing the Choose To Be Nice Banner. Parents were also encouraged to get involved. They were able to make the promise and sign the banner during an open house.
That banner now hangs prominently in the hallway so all can see and be reminded.
To keep everyone thinking about how to keep the promise, staff hung up a “Memorial’s 101 ways to Be Nice” poster that students can fill in. It was a little slow at first as students got used to the concept, but now it is filling up. Their ideas include:
- Help clean up in the library.
- Let someone go ahead of you in line.
- Share our toys.
- Tell someone you like them.
- Treat everyone fairly.
There has been a noticeable change within the building as students have moved through the year.
“They know what’s expected and they’re living up to that,” Missy said.
Having a school-wide program has the added benefit of unifying the teaching staff, allowing them to take a coordinated approach.
“We’re all working on the same things and we have this common language,” Missy explained.
She said that teachers have appreciated being able to be more proactive and to teach the concepts around improving interactions rather than being reactive when there are concerns.
“This is an easy program to use. It doesn’t take a lot of time and we’ve been able to integrate it into the day, but it really makes a difference for the students and for the staff,” Missy said. “It’s great to have common resources and we’re all working together.”