Including the community in their schools’ Positive Behaviour for Learning School-Wide approach through special congratulations cards has created a great response for a cluster of schools in Motueka. KATE BLEASDALE found out more about the Community Congratulations Cards initiative.
What is a useful way to reinforce the good behaviour being taught in schools? Take it out to the community. A cluster of schools in Motueka was one of the first to undergo training for the Ministry of Education Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) School-Wide approach, and this year, introduced an initiative so learners could take what they learned outside of the school grounds.
Four schools in Motueka are currently implementing PB4L School-Wide: Motueka South School, Parklands School, Lower Moutere School, and Motueka High School. Representatives or ‘coaches’ from each school have worked together to create the Community Congratulations Card initiative after going through the PB4L School-Wide training together.
“When we did the training, the idea of the community card scheme came up,” said Motueka South School deputy principal,
Linda Beatson. “It fits nicely with our existing in-school behaviour cards.”
Parklands School assistant principal Andrea Smith added that they saw how an American school worked with the community during a presentation in their training. The initiative aims to reinforce the respectful behaviour being taught in their schools.
How the initiative works
The schools divided the town up and went out to talk to businesses and community facilities about their idea. It was decided to include all businesses and organisations that deal with school-aged children. They were given letters with information about the initiative and cards to give out to children they saw displaying positive or respectful behaviour around the community.
Businesses put a stamp on the back of the card and hand them out when they see a child displaying good behaviour. The stamp on the back means the team can keep track of how many cards are coming from which businesses. The idea is that schools then reward the supporting businesses with thank you notes and an end-of-year display certificate, to reinforce and sustain the initiative.
So far, learners have received cards for displaying positive behaviour such as patience, waiting in line, using their manners, and friendliness. When they receive a card, it is taken back to school and worked in with whatever reward system the school has put in place, which is a key component of the PB4L School-Wide framework.
Linda said the initiative is open for all school-aged learners in the area, and schools that aren’t running PB4L School-Wide have been informed about how the Community Congratulations Card initiative works, through the local principals’ network.
“They were all very positive about sorting their own programmes out.”
Lower Moutere School deputy principal Shelley Gibson said children visiting Motueka can also receive a card; whether they’ve come from outside the region or are on holiday from the other side of the world. They can then take the card home and into their own school to show they displayed positive behaviour while in Motueka.
Andrea said they teach respectful behaviour in class, but learners also have to think about how their behaviour might look when they’re out in the community or at their weekend sports game.
“We reward [the behaviour] at school because we’re teaching it, and now we have the system in the community, it’s out there as well.”
There was a huge burst in cards soon after the initiative was launched, and many more sheets have been printed since, with sponsorship from the local Xerox company. The PB4L School-Wide coaches are working hard to promote the cards; with newspaper publicity, and articles on Motueka Online, so that using the cards becomes “part of the way we do things in Motueka,” added Linda.
Now the team is including even more groups. With the winter sports season having started recently, cards are being handed out to local sports clubs.
“For instance, we used the cards as a problem-solving tool at the Motueka Netball Centre, to encourage fair play and good sportsmanship,” said Linda. “The netball centre then went ahead and organised sponsorship from New World to do the same thing for their adult players. It’s fantastic to see the idea develop.”
Accessibility for all ages
One hurdle in creating the initiative was making it appropriate for learners aged five to 18. When it was launched at the beginning of the year, there was great uptake from the businesses and schools involved, but Motueka High School teacher John McFadgen said fewer of the High School learners were receiving the cards than their younger peers.
The team initially thought that older learners might not think the initiative ‘cool’ enough, but then they started getting comments from learners at the High School saying how they weren’t getting many cards.
“We’re thinking because of the age range, we have young adults who are leaders, and we want them to be part of supporting the programme to keep it going, as well as teachers doing it,” said John.
Young High School student leaders are encouraged to visit businesses around Motueka once each term, to reinforce the use of the cards and to be the point of contact for card re-orders. Linda said as well as providing more prominence for the High School in the initiative, it helps to build momentum and keep it sustainable.
“If the leaders from the high school can step in, then it would help.”
One reason the initiative was introduced in Motueka was as a response to feedback about learners coming from places like the local library and recreation centre.
“There was one group in the library,” said Linda. “They have free internet, and kids tend to gather in there. Some of the behaviour was noisy and unsuitable. The card is a positive tool that the library can use to encourage the good, quiet and respectful behaviour they want to see.”
Shelley said calls also came in from the rec centre every now and then about trouble being caused.
This information was coming back to some of the schools, and the coaches thought about what they could do to help with learner behaviour around the community. So far, the initiative seems to have worked in those areas.
“We haven’t had any complaints from the library or the rec centre this year.”
Linda said the rec centre has been a great supporter of the initiative, and it’s now receiving extra focus in their programmes through use of the card.
Places like the local doctors’ surgeries have also responded positively to the initiative, and their staff regularly hand out cards. John said the local police have been a good group to work with, as they already have their community networks in place, and the cards work in with them.
“One of the nice things about it in a community this size is that the people out there have had kids go through the schools,” noted John. “It goes back to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child.”
As well as looking into ways to keep the initiative sustainable, Linda is due to go on sabbatical for 10 weeks this term, and she aims to look at ways of collating PB4L resources from schools around the West Coast, Nelson and Marlborough districts.
Each May, schools involved in PB4L undertake an in-house (EBS) survey and another survey between schools (SET), so they can use the data to track each school’s development in PB4L over the years. Before this year’s round of surveys began, Linda contacted all the schools to ask them two questions about PB4L: what resources they have developed and find useful, and the ways in which PB4L has had a positive or negative effect on the school.
Linda said that while the sabbatical project is a simple idea – a short survey and building a kete of resources – it should be useful in helping teachers to see what other schools have done and what resources have already been created.
“Schools have come up with lots of different things. I know we have developed a lot of effective tools and resources at Motueka South, so why not share and help the next wave of PB4L schools?”
She said this kind of work echoes the shift in thinking of schools that there are possibilities for better outcomes when they connect with other schools.
“Connections and partnerships are the way forward.”