My school is on year three of our school wide PBIS journey. We have our school-wide expectations and discipline plan down and almost all of our staff is on board. It has been very positive to see our students excited to earn our “Shark Tickets” for following expectations. If you ask any student they will be able to share the expectations – Safe, Hardworking, Accountable, Respectful, and Kind students because we are the Midway Sharks!
We used PBIS to help create a positive school culture and to build our own school identity while also decreasing the amount of time spent on behavior issues negatively impacting academic achievement. There is strong research behind PBIS and the fact that it is inclusive of ALL students, particularly students in special education, was important part of why we chose to become a PBIS school. Having clear and consistent, multi-tiered interventions allows us to focus more on student learning and less on behavior.
Now that we are settling into PBIS, we wanted to take it a step further and create a student-led PBIS team. The intended goal was to have more student involvement in creating a positive school culture. Students are increasingly disengaged from schools and we need to give them a voice in reforms to increase engagement (Smyth, 2006). By gathering input from and involving students in PBIS, we would move from things being “done to them” to a “working with them” mentality. If PBIS is truly a school-wide program then we need input from all members of the school community, especially our students.
Student voice is important. This gives students a say in school priorities which will be more effective in improving student outcomes. Student input into systems and messages is critical in student engagement. Giving students a voice ensures student friendly language and actions. Most importantly, kids listen to kids.
Knowing that student voice is important, I was tasked with creating a student-led PBIS team. I decided to call it our SHARK Council to stick with our theme. Our 5th and 6th grade teachers each selected three students they felt best embodied our expectations and who would be great student ambassadors. This group meets with me twice a month before school. After our initial meeting where we discussed leadership styles, strengths, and weaknesses, the kids chose one of three focus teams..
The Production Team is my outgoing team. They t lead PBIS assemblies, create and perform skits, and also create our school-wide expectation videos. They also created a presentation that was presented before our school board explaining this year’s activities.
The Peer Mentor Team is my group that love being personable and helping kids. They created a checklist of everything a new student to the school needs to know. Whenever we have a new student, two of them take the student to their new classroom to meet their teacher and then take them on a school tour while also sharing SHARK expectations. This group is also in charge of our friendship bench on the playground that helps make sure that no one is lonely at recess. They are also available if the principal or counselor needs a peer buddy for a student.
The Public Relations Team is in charge of running our Shark Store every three weeks. They collect order bags from the classroom teachers, fill orders, and return the bags. They also provide input on what new items we should offer at the store. Additionally, our morning announcements desperately needed revamping so this team took that on, meeting multiple times with our principal and creating a new template. One of the big things they wanted to do was celebrate student accomplishments. To do this, they created a Google Form where parents and students could share points of celebration that then were shared with the whole school.
The Shark Council was introduced to the whole school at an assembly and their photos with their names are in one of our glass display cases in the middle of the school. They wear special Shark Council shirts we had made to assemblies and on Shark Store days or if they are giving a new student tour. We want them to be student ambassadors and to be approached by other students who have questions and ideas for the school.
As we meet throughout the year, the team is working on leadership skills while also brainstorming new ideas and things that they want to see happen at the school. It has been so much fun to see how excited and engaged they are. We are learning and growing together as a team and I am so excited to see where this group takes the council idea in the future.