By Mike Myers
Washington Times Herald
High school students are supposed to learn in a classroom.
But students at Washington High School are learning just by going to a classroom.
In an effort to improve the quality of classroom learning and teach students a life skill that goes beyond an academic subject, the staff at Washington High School has instituted a new rewards system to encourage students to be on time.
WHS teacher Dave Harman, a member of a committee that has brought the PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) program to Washington High School, explains that the program is a way to reward students’ good behavior.
“We’ve implemented an incentive program for the kids to encourage them to be on time for school and for class,” said Harman. “We’re tracking them from month to month. For each grade — freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior — we’re having a contest.
“The class that has the best percentage of fewer tardies will be rewarded for doing the right thing as a class,” added Harman. “As a class, they will be rewarded. And we will have rewards for individuals as well.”
Harman explained that examples of rewards for an entire class might include a one-day extended lunch period for seniors (who are allowed to leave school for lunch) or allowing underclassmen (who are not allowed to leave the campus for lunch) to leave class early and head to the cafeteria.
On an individual basis, students who don’t draw a single tardy during a month will have their names entered into a drawing for prizes such as being first in line at lunch time or, for students who drive to school, a student without a tardy might win the chance to park in principal LeAnn Kelley’s parking spot for a specified period of time.
The program started a year ago under then WHS Principal Paul White and is part of a larger plan to improve education at WHS, with the next step in the program an effort to increase attendance at the high school. Parents will be kept apprised of the progress of the program through a newsletter.
WHS Academic Dean Tony Barnard emphasized that the program is a shift in an approach to discipline from just giving negative consequences for wrong behavior to rewarding good behavior.
“It’s different than an old discipline plan, where there are consequences for everything they do,” said Barnard. “It’s trying to put in place reinforcements, positive things that we can do for kids who are doing things correctly, and support for those who need it.”
While the benefits to having students in class on time are important, Kelley says the lesson being taught is meaningful in a broader sense as well.
“What we’re looking for and what we’re trying to set in place is teaching that being on time, whether it’s to class or work or athletic events, is so important, it’s a skill,” said Kelley. “This is more than just ‘I’m going to be on time to class.’ It’s a lifelong goal that you need to have everyday.”
Senior Summer Alvey thinks the idea of being rewarded for being on time will encourage students to move a little faster during the school day (school at WHS begins at 8:05 on a normal morning, and students have five minutes between classes, with a warning bell sounding after four minutes have elapsed between classes).
“I like the idea of prizes, I think we’ll be like ‘Okay, we can get to class a little faster,” said Alvey.
Fellow senior Lindsay Vair, who holds down a job in the summer, echoes what Kelley noted about timeliness in the world outside school.
“We have to be on time,” said Vair. “Workers are a dime a dozen, so if you’re not on time, they’re just going to fire you.”