PBIS at Joy Elementary School

PBIS stands for Positive Behavior Intervention & Supports. In 2010, Joy Elementary School implemented a PBIS program. I had the honor of being on the school-wide PBIS team.

What makes PBIS unique is its focus on school-wide implementation and results, and its focus on school-wide participation. When we started the PBIS process, all the school staff (teachers, aides, maintenance crew, etc.) got together to agree on 4 common values we wanted to teach our students. At the end of the meeting we had our Cub Code: be responsible, be respectful, be safe, and be involved.

Within the first week of school, you could stop a student in the hall and ask them to recite the cub code, but it didn’t end there. To make sure that students understood what those terms meant and were able to apply them to everyday situations, a few keys things had to happen first. The initial step, after the creation of the cub code, was to make the expectations for student (and staff) behavior explicit. This involved the creation of the matrix. The matrix established what following the code looks like in each part of the school. We posted the matrix around the school so there could be no excuses, and added posters to each area focused on two or three clear behavioral expectations for that area. For example, in the hallway the sign might say “art is for the eyes” to encourage students not to touch the artwork on the walls.

Of course, you can’t expect a kindergarten student (or even a 6th grader!) to read the posters and signs on the walls and immediately follow those rules, or even understand them, so lessons were created and taught to teach students all the expectations. Once students understood what was expected of them, we began issuing incentives in the form of cub code tickets. Every day, each staff member at the school would receive 5 cub code tickets. Throughout the day, they would hand them out to students for demonstrating exemplary cub code behavior. Tickets were turned in by students for weekly prize drawings. Cub code tickets served two functions; first, they rewarded students for good behavior, but secondly they forced teachers to focus on the positive and give out tickets daily.

In addition to individual prizes, we had a few school-wide celebrations when students met our school-wide, cub code ticket goal. But, it wasn’t all fun and games. While PBIS is all about being positive, you can’t forget the inventions piece. To make sure we were doing our best to serve our students, we focused on data. The first step there was to revise our referral form to collect the sort of data we needed. We also revised our referral process; where would students go when there was a misbehavior, what would they do, and when? All these questions and more were debated and answered by the cub code team, with final approval by the staff as a whole.

The most difficult thing about PBIS is that it’s a process. It doesn’t happen over night and even after a full year of impelementation, not all our problems are solved, but by working together we create buy-in for the staff and create a common culture and language. The first year of implementing PBIS was a little rocky, but we learned a lot and at the end of the year, the entire staff got together again to make improvements for the following year. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen.