Focusing on the Positive at HAW

Focusing on the Positive at Hawthorne
Posted on 09/25/2019
Focusing on the Positive at Hawthorne Elementary School
By Melissa Chastain, Hawthorne Elementary Principal

Growing up, my mom always said, “You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.” As a child, that didn’t mean nearly as much to me as it does now. At Hawthorne Elementary, our approach to discipline is just that, focus on the positive. 
Hawthorne Elementary, and the other schools throughout the Mexico School District, use a proactive, consistent approach to school-wide discipline through Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS). The purpose of Hawthorne’s PBIS support plan is to create a positive climate of mutual respect, responsibility, academic excellence, and safety within our school community. At Hawthorne, we focus on being safe, being respectful, and being responsible. 
What is PBIS?
PBIS is an approach that we use to improve school safety and promote positive behavior. PBIS is a proactive approach to establishing the behavioral supports and social culture needed for all students in a school to achieve social, emotional, and academic success. The purpose of schoolwide PBIS is to establish a climate in which appropriate behavior is the norm. 
PBIS has a few important principles:
·  Every child can learn proper behavior.
·  Stepping in early can prevent more serious behavior problems.
·  Each child is different, and schools need to provide many kinds of behavior support.
·  How schools teach behavior should be based on research and science.
·  Following a child’s behavioral progress is important.
·  Schools must gather and use data to make decisions about behavior problems.
Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support is a way for schools to encourage good behavior. With PBIS, students learn about behavior, just as they learn other subjects like math or science. The key to PBIS is prevention, not punishment. 
How is PBIS proactive?
PBIS is proactive in that discipline data is used to identify patterns and possible causes of inappropriate behavior. This information is then used by a team of teachers to develop effective interventions to decrease inappropriate behavior and increase desired behavior throughout the building. The use of yearly, monthly, or more frequent data comparisons helps to prevent the same patterns of inappropriate behavior from reoccurring and assist the team in adapting the school-wide PBIS plan.
How is PBIS positive?
The positive refers to a change in focus from reactive (focusing on what students do wrong) to proactive (teaching and recognizing what students do right). It refers to an overall change in the school climate to a learning environment where students and teachers feel appreciated, safe, and respected. 
Although we focus on the positive, PBIS does not ignore inappropriate behavior. Consequences are more than “punishment” and serve to either increase or decrease inappropriate behavior. PBIS views appropriate consequences as those that are effective in changing the student’s inappropriate behavior. At Hawthorne, we have a plan for inappropriate behavior that matches consequences to the severity of the behavior in order to maintain consistency throughout the building.  
Why is it important to focus on teaching positive social behaviors?
In past years, schoolwide discipline has focused mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies.  Research has shown that the implementation of punishment, when used inconsistently and without positive strategies, is ineffective.  Introducing, modeling, and reinforcing positive social behavior is an important step of a student’s educational experience. Teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them is a much more positive approach than waiting for misbehavior to occur before responding. According to several studies, PBIS leads to better student behavior. 
I should have learned a long time ago to listen to my mom the first time, “You get what you focus on, so focus on what you want.”  At Hawthorne Elementary, we will continue to focus on the positive, our students deserve nothing less.