Core Behaviors: Joplin Schools Teach Manners to Improve Academic - KOAM TV 7

Core Behaviors: Joplin Schools Teach Manners to Improve Academics

Joplin, MO -

The Joplin school district scored below state averages on core subjects of the map tests. The district's plan of attack to improve academics  is focusing on behavior.

Interim superintendent Norm Ridder said what teachers are finding across the district, all the way up to high school, is that some students dont know how to behave.  So, they're teaching them.  Ridder said its especially impacting at risk students who in his words, didnt know what they didnt know.

Good morning, Mr. Hoggatt!  How are you today?" Karsin Shephard greets his fourth grade teacher using hand shaking skills teacher Dale Hoggatt taught at the beginning of the school year and continues to reinforce.

 For fourth graders at Cecil Floyd elementary, not just Hoggatt
s class anymore, shaking hands is now routine.
Karsin said,
Its actually really good cause it gets a conversation going.  You start it by, you look confident. You dont bend your shoulders down  like this. (He demonstrates slouching)  And you look the person in the eye. You have it web to web. Your hands are web to web and you ask them a question."

Classmate Allie Krumsick added, "You don
t need a floppy fish, limp noodle or too tight. And Mr. Hoggatt will tell us that when he greets us in the morning." 

Another fourth grade teacher instructs students on hand shaking during a morning meeting as they stand in a circle.
"Remember to critique your friends hand shake."
s just one way teachers focus on behavior in the district.
Hoggatt instructed students, "Go ahead and put your folders down in front of you.
  Students responded, Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

For Hoggatt, its also about teaching, yes sir, no mam, please and thank you. Greeting is the first of four core behaviors being taught in the district. They are, greet one another, follow instructions, get along, and participate.

Hoggatt said, "This does affect that (participate) too because they are more apt to participate with people they are more comfortable with and they're mutually respectful of.  Those things, getting along with others are things affected by these respectful approaches."

Eastmorland elementary principal Heather Surbrugg said its having an impact on communication in the classroom. "They
re answering their questions more completely and  with a complete sentence and addressing  their teacher appropriately.  Yes sir. Yes mam. Thats how we should be acting, not just as students but as adults in society"

At Eastmorland, they're learning not to interrupt but to talk only when they hold a bear or stuffed animal.

Shelby Riggs, a parent said,
I think, again, if you are listening, actively participating, take common criticism without getting upset, then I think you can learn a little better."

Good manners are on display when guests arrive in the room.
Students greet people at the door and stand to shake hands and talk about what they
re doing in class. They are getting comfortable conversing with adults.

Hoggatt said, "Calling somebody by name, looking them in the eye  with confidence, transforms behavior, which then again  affects their academics."

Dr. Norm Ridder, interim superintendent said, "Learning is very rooted in the ability to listen and then also the ability, the eye contact."

 Students have noticed a change in the classroom atmosphere. Krumsick said, Like last year our class was really noisy and talkative, but this year we're kind of all focused and learning the same thing  and we'll encourage each other.

Fellow fourth grader, Caden Bright said,  "We have less arguments here than we used to. We asked why he thought that is. Caden explained, Cause we show each other respect and,  as I said, once when you show respect other people would show you respect."

Etiquette is even finding its place on the school bus. Driver Shadron Ekhoff says boys allow ladies to go first. And some volunteer to help retrieve instruments out of the cargo hold for other bus riders and taking responsibility for closing the compartment for the driver.

Ekhoff said he nurtures relationships with his riders.
Ive made sure to learn each and every one of their names. I make sure to greet them every time  they get  on and off the bus.
Just general reminders and I have to lead by example too."

On board, kids say please and thank you for a radio station choice.  And most high five the driver as they disembark the bus.

Hoggatt says enforcing common courtesies and being consistent changes children which he has heard from his student
s parents.

Sandi Krumsick, Allie
s mom said, We were taking groceries into the house one day and she  was just very eager, eager to help and  with a great attitude. Shes very aware of how shes perceived and easily embarrassed and I think having these skills in her back pocket has helped her feel more confident, self-assured."

Classmate Karsin said he's used greetings at home, "You get to know how their day has been going and you get to know how you can improve how their feeling. And if you improve how you
re feeling, it improves them  and you are happy because they dont get onto you as much.

Dr. Ridder says by focusing on behaviors like greeting and following instructions, the district discovered when kids listen to instructions they need to break down words. And phonics was missing from the system.
So the district is putting phonics back into practice. 

The approach to behavior is different at every school and more so at the middle school level. South Middle School is focusing on behavior with the thirty-five essentials.

Keeping students on task is a teachers job. But for Joplin instructors discipline was getting in the way of teaching. The districts focus on core behaviors takes the shape of the thirty-five essentials at South Middle school. 
Student produced videos remind classmates of the rules.   
"Can i go to the bathroom.?  Can I please go to my locker?”
said students in the production. Questions that can take time away from teaching.

Students laughed at the video.  What they are learning is based on Ron Clark’s book, ‘The Essential 55 Rules.’

Principal Stephen Gilbreth picked 35 of the 55 for his school, "It’s just good manners, treating each other with respect, critical thinking, communications. The behaviors that it takes to be a successful person. It just comes down to basic and simple things."


But things some students say they forget, and need to be reminded or others simply never learned.

Assistant Principal at South, Kasey Pliler added, "The expectations are very clear.  They know what they're expected to do inside the school. We call it the way we do business at south." 

Seventh grader Savannah Rose commented on the 35, "Bringing my homework to class and raising my hand and doing what I’m supposed to do."

Classmate Brayden Thomas said, "Raising the hand, I talk a lot.  So that one;s kind of hard for me."

Brayden learned about holding the door for someone following you, something for which he was rewarded with eagle bucks. It’s paper money given by teachers to be cashed in at the treat trolley.
Brayden said, "It makes me feel like I respect them and if I respect them, I’m gonna get respect back."

Students may get rewards from the treat trolley but many realize there are advantages to good behavior in the classroom.

Dawson Phillips another seventh grader said, "Because, instead of having to stop the class to get onto one kid, they no longer have to stop the class. They just go on teaching."

Principal Gilbreth explained the problem. "Silly behaviors that will,
just a transition, a simple transition in class or a question that would get everybody to laugh.  It may be,  may take kids off ,teachers off the teaching task and kids of the learning task for 3 minutes." He said those can add up to lost instruction time.

Administrators say they’re seeing fewer kids sent to the office or counselors.  Last year at this time sixty-seven kids had office discipline referrals.  That has dropped to fifty-six for the same time period so far this year.

Pliler added, "We're seeing less repeat offenses and hope that continues throughout the year."

Dr. Ridder said if principals don’t have to deal with discipline they can spend time coaching teachers in the classroom. He said that’s happening more this year than last at the high school in particular.  "The assistant principals were each spending about eighty-five percent of their time with student behavior.  This year it’s the exact opposite. It’s eighty-five percent of the time in the classroom. You know almost automatically you're gonna have far better achievement." 

Allyson Briley, a member of the Principal’s Advisory Council which makes the reminder videos said, “Kids have started  changing their behavior for the better. More eye contact  and like they’re  just less rude in general."

And fellow PAC member Angelina Schramm added, “I think its showing examples of how to be kind, so there's not as many bullying and rude comments to each other.”

Principal Gilbreth added, “It’s not just about how students behave in class but how teachers behave in class. And are they conscious of being respectful and understanding. That it’s a give and take thing. "

Ridder said when academics lag,you look at behavior but adults first.
Ridder said, “A lot of the adult behavior is voice tone. If you have a condescending or high level voice tone, that’s a bad sign "

Ridder sensed fear in teachers and says now they're not evaluated but reviewed.
Principals were taught cognitive coaching which is working with teachers on self-improvement.
Ridder said, "Teachers were, ‘Wow, I love this!’  Because its making them become a professional as opposed to a worker. They sit down with the principal have a conversation and not fear the consequences.".

Eighth grade teacher Heather Van Otterloo said, "Respect is a two way street. The kids see us every day and the way we treat each other as adults and the way we treat them. If we slip up, they're like, “What about the way you're asking us?"

Gilbreth says the motto for everyone at South is, ‘Turn it up.’
He said it’s a push for everyone to do their best. He added, "Effort is free. It costs nothing for anybody.  You can give all the effort in the world and it doesn’t cost a thing."

Measure the success of good behavior, besides office referrals, comes with a check of attendance and grades.  
Dr. Ridder says the kids should show high levels of satisfaction and want to come to school. So, attendance should be better, behavior better and academic performance better.

 The four core were put on a flyer and given to parents during conferences. You can find a link to that information by clicking on this link. Click here


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