By Jillian Risberg
Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Diversity and Excellence — the Lakeview Lions are roaring with PRIDE over a new initiative that focuses on their core values and teaches them to the kids.
“Deb (Warner) and I started brainstorming over the summer about a way to relate those core values that would not only reach the students but to have an impact with staff, parents and the community as well,” says Maribeth Hall, another school counselor.
According to the counselors, schools across the state are working on their culture and climate — but Lakeview really wanted to hone in more of the character education programs and they did so right from the first day of school.
“Rather than just being kind, really learning what those (core value) words mean and identifying it in others,” Hall says.
The counselor says identifying it in others is paramount because it starts a conversation. And people don’t have conversations anymore, so it gives them that platform and to pay it forward.
So many PAWS are being passed — #GotLakeviewPride, show it off.
“When students pass the PAW, whether it’s to another student, a sibling, a staff member – they have to say, ‘I admire your perseverance in that math lesson or I noted how respectful you were on the bus,’” Hall says.
They’re really identifying some of the kids who are struggling and having to persevere.
“Academically they don’t do so well, socially they’re not doing so well, so this is another opportunity for them to be recognized and get something super positive,” Hall says.
According to the counselor, a lot of attention goes to kids who may be acting out behaviorally, as opposed to saying, ‘I really appreciate that you listen to the teacher, I appreciate that you’re always quiet in the hall when you’re supposed to be.’
Kids like Owen Bartkowiak, Jack Bertram and Ashley Suespeut that are not as vocal but quietly doing the right thing are being recognized
Bartkowiak, a fifth-grader gave his PAW to Amelia (a kindergartner who follows the rules and does the right thing) because she’s always talking to kids on the bus and if someone drops something she offers to pick it up.
“They ran an assembly in October for us on the PRIDE program and were given a PAW for their skills and their wonderfulness and told to give the paw to someone else in the audience,” Warner says.
Fifth-grader, Bertram chose fellow student Tessa because he says she’s nice to everyone and always looking out for other people.
“The kids that are here now really thought about who to give the PAW to and didn’t give it to their best friend. Like Tessa, she’s in a different grade,” Hall says.
“When kids, especially the younger ones are recognized by the older ones who aren’t somebody that they hang out with all the time, we’re really building a great cross-age culture here.”
According to Warner, when they first thought about implementing the program they surveyed the kids.
“We wanted to give them a good voice and one of the biggest things was they wanted to work with the younger kids, they wanted to build on those relationships and I think it’s really worked out well,” she says.
Another fifth-grade student, Ashley Suespeut gave her PAW to Travon, a fourth-grader because she says he’s one of the kids on her bus who always offers to tie kids shoes and he’s been doing it for some time.
“At the beginning of the year, he asked one of the kindergartens if they needed help tying their shoes,” she says.
“For Ashley to stand up there in the assembly and say, ‘I recognize Travon who’s in a different grade’ and not necessarily one of her good friends but he takes the time to help kids tie their shoes, that has an impact on what we value because the students value it amongst each other and not just the adults telling them,” Hall says.
To establish core values at such a young age, including being patient, friendly, generous and considerate to your peers is a very big deal.
“Before we started the PRIDE program all the teachers said, ‘be kind’ and the kids thought they were getting tired of the word,” Suespeut says. “This is more meaningful because we did assemblies on it and teach it in school.”
According to Hall, it’s really shifted culture and increased school spirit because even though they’re Lakeview Lions, they didn’t refer to the kids as lions before.
Now at assemblies, lunch and recess to get their attention, someone will yell out ‘Lakeview Lions let me hear you roar’ — and everyone will roar in unison.
When the older kids see the younger ones they call them cubs.
There’s also the trickle down effect.
“We’re getting more feedback from home, of families nominating their students for perseverance,’” Hall says. “Those qualities aren’t only values here in school, they’re values throughout their life.”
Of the PRIDE initiative that has really turned into a movement in the school and beyond, Hall says for her it’s about community and conversation.
“In a world that’s all about technology and not face-to-face contact — we’re having conversations every single day. When these PAWS are passed, eye contact, telling somebody I noticed this about you, I value this, I see you roaring with PRIDE when you are respectful in the hall or whatever it is — and I think the core values have bonded everyone,” Hall says.
Find common ground and make time to connect. What qualities or traits do you consider worthwhile; your deeply held beliefs and fundamental driving forces. When you discover what you value, you can live in harmony with those values.
According to Warner, they all have the same mission and the same things that they’re thinking about.
“Every one of us, from pre-school right through fifth grade to the teachers, the staff, even the bus drivers — everyone in our community, even the community members,” she says. “It’s become almost like a culture, a language that we’re using throughout the town.”
The PAWS have shown up at other schools in the district, according to Hall. They’ve also given them to the firemen, the policemen and immersed themselves in every corner of the community.
“It’s a conversation connection,” Hall says. “I feel so much more connected to community, home (the parents) and school. “We worked it out with the kids what it was going to look like and then they ran the PRIDE assembly.”
On the importance of what they’re doing, “I think it’s all about just respecting each other and showing our core values,” Suespeut says.
According to Hall, this year they also instituted Den meetings, where the kids break into sections of each grade.
“We have a den called perseverance and then it has a fifth-grade class, fourth-grade class, third-grade, down to kindergarten.
“So the fifth-graders get together and make small groups and they have a meeting together, do an activity, talk, get to know each other,” Hall says.
To have a program like PRIDE that didn’t exist in years past in an elementary school — shows just how much kindness is now a priority.
“And respecting others and working toward those qualities within yourself,” Hall says. “You’re not going to be bullying (and) you’re going to check yourself, integrity, doing things when no one’s watching — doing what you say.”
In such a large school, the counselors say they created that connectiveness across the grades to make kids feel less isolated.
“Third, fourth and fifth-graders teach kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders how to tie their shoes,” Hall says. “Kids are doing this every day, teaching younger students, spending time with them.”
According to the school counselor, older kids crave being leaders but they’re missing that because their time outside of school is so structured.
“They don’t have time for that in their lives anymore,” Hall says. “So we’re trying to bring some of the stuff we had as children, into the school.”
It started with having fifth-grade recess time coincide with kindergarten so everyday up to 10 fifth-graders accompany Warner to kindergarten recess, where they teach Duck Duck Goose, Red Light/Green Light, Tag, Hide and Seek, and how to resolve conflicts.
“I think if you’re spending all your time teaching others and being a good role model, you don’t have time to get in trouble,” she says.
The counselors talked about how they were going to keep the program going but Warner says they don’t have to.
“I’ve been here 15 years and we’ve run programs every year, this one has taken on a life of its own,” she says. “Which shows it’s meaningful to others and making such a significant difference.”