A fresh focus on doing good things for the right reasons is paying off at Jamestown Elementary, where sterling behavior earned about half the student body a high-energy assembly.
“It’s the midyear reward,” said Principal Contessa Pelfrey, and it was paid for with grant money set aside for positive behavior incentives. Stressing good character traits this year has improved the school atmosphere and cut down on discipline issues by about a third, she said. Students from Chinese Camp Elementary joined Jamestown students for the assembly.
“‘Be a champion’ is what we adopted as our school theme. We talk a lot about being safe, being respectful, being responsible,” Pelfry said.
Those themes resonated as former Harlem Globetrotter Corey Rich, aka Corey the Dribbler, showed off signature moves Thursday, such as rolling basketballs over his shoulders, the index-finger spin and bouncing up to six balls simultaneously.
Between demonstrations of what six hours a day of practice can do, Rich told the 143 first- through eighth-graders his four keys to success: respect (“It will take you a long way”); education (“The more you learn, the more you earn”); attitude (“It will determine your success in life”); and not bullying.
The last one he focused on, saying middle schools in particular have bullying problems. “Take action,” he told the students, step up and say something if you see bullying and tell a grown-up if it happens to you. If you see someone sitting alone, “be their friend,” he said.
Telling kids what to do – instead of what not to do – and focusing on praise and rewards to keep kids on the straight and narrow are sweeping school campuses. The twist toward the bright side for school discipline offers schools a way forward as pressure grows to reduce suspensions and expulsions, which often fall disproportionately on poor and minority students.
“We want our school and our students to hold these traits intrinsically. But sometimes that has to be taught, just as explicitly as our reading and writing,” Pelfry said after the assembly.
The school has had a unity day, participated in national No Name Calling Week and has a “random acts of kindness” campaign going in tandem with this week’s character trait of kindness.
“It’s a collective effort,” Pelfrey said. “Parents have said, in general, it’s a much more positive atmosphere this year,” she said.
Eighth-grader Trent Matthews said he improved his behavior this year, not just because of the campaign, but because high school is coming up. “Last year, I had a bit of a twilight zone, but this year I’m definitely keeping it straight,” Trent said.