- Lincoln Middle School, the largest middle school in New Jersey, is in its second year of implementing Hero, a program that rewards students for positive behaviors such as coming to class on time, staying on task, and performing random acts of kindness, eSchool News reports.
- Rewards include incentives such as dress down days and pizza parties, but students are also responding to the fact they are appreciated for good behavior.
- Since the program as been employed, the school has seen a 92% increase in acts of random kindness, fewer discipline referrals by teachers using the program, and improved relationships between teachers and students.
Adults in the workplace understand the power of praise. A person may be hired to do a job and may do the job well in order to earn a regular paycheck. But a word of praise from a boss or mentor or an award for outstanding service can go far in encouraging peak performance and loyalty to the company.
The idea can also work with children. Discipline practices still need to be in place to deal with egregious behavior, but positive reinforcement techniques can encourage simple good behaviors, even in older students. The rewards may change, however. While stickers may work in kindergarten, older students generally prefer to earn additional freedoms, such as cell phone use at certain times, dress down days, or expanded food options. Gift cards, which may be donated by area organizations, are another option for larger incentives. Programs such as Hero or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports offer other methods for changing school culture though positive reinforcement.
Another benefit of this approach is the connection to social-emotional learning concepts such as empathy and compassion. Middle and high school students, especially, like causes and want to be inspired. Using concepts such as "Pay It Forward Day” can inspire students to act likewise. By reinforcing positive ideals, school leaders can engage all that wonderful youthful energy and enthusiasm in ways that will make the school culture – and the world—a better place to learn and grow.