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'Snack and Chat' offers rewards for positive behavior

February 15, 2001

'Snack and Chat' offers rewards for positive behavior



Western Heights Middle School Principal Bob Brown called a recent afternoon gathering of seventh- and eighth-grade students "Snack and Chat." It was a reward in the school's positive approach to discipline program, part of a statewide Effective Behavior Support, he said.

It looked like a party. There was music, popcorn, soda and candy. Kids talked and laughed, moving freely among the tables and each other.

They earned the opportunity to "snack and chat" by receiving five bears - small pieces of paper with the school's bear mascot. Bears are presented by faculty and staff who "catch" kids doing something good.

Students get a bear for making the honor roll, two for distinguished honor roll. Bears are given for a variety of good things, including picking up a piece of paper in the hallway that five others walked past.

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The approach dovetails with the school system's Character Counts initiative, targeting respect and responsibility, said Deby MacWilliams, Western Heights physical education teacher.

There are 725 students in fifth through eighth grades at Western Heights. The positive approach doesn't work for every kid, but "it's allowed us to get a better handle on things," Brown said. It has received recognition for some kids who wouldn't have gotten any, he said.

As Brown and MacWilliams were talking at the "Snack and Chat," a student ran up, bear in hand. He hesitated, then said "Excuse me" before asking a question.

That little display of good manners was noted by the teacher and principal as something that might not have happened before.

"We assume that kids know proper behavior," MacWilliams said. In many instances, they don't. Social behaviors have to be taught, she said.

How does it feel to be noticed for doing something right?

"It feels good," said 11-year-old John Smith, who received a bear for helping people with math. He also thinks it's helped some kids improve their behavior.

How did David Richards, 13, earn his bears?

"Just by being good," he said with a shrug. He mentioned that he collected some cans for a food drive.

"You get to do fun stuff," said Amy Andrews, 13, of the rewards such as the "Snack and Chat."

Developing the rewards part of the program was not easy, Brown said. Kids like different things. It's not one size fits all, he said.

"I think it's a great program," said Matthew Berry, 12. He got caught helping a kid who dropped his books. He also earned bears for not being late.

"I like it - 'cause it's cool," said Julius Dellinger, 13.

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