UKEdMag: Going Above and Beyond by @karadowson

Rocket Recognition, a Whole School Community Positive App

Reviewing Behaviour Policies always seems to be top of the agenda when beginning a new school year and inducting new staff. Having just left an Assistant Headship in Dubai after five years, discussing the collective expectations we have of children was of paramount importance when taking up a Deputy Head position in a small school in rural Northamptonshire.

In discussing the topic with children and staff it became apparent that the existing approach was inconsistent. There were blurry lines between rewards, praise and sanctions with an embedded focus on negative reminders and rules in some areas of the school. Children were confused as to what was expected of them when they moved from one lesson to the next, and teachers were frustrated with the laborious system of filling out lengthy house point slips to ‘award’ praise. Sanctions weren’t restorative, children lost golden time and didn’t have a chance of gaining it back. A revamp of our approach to dealing with children’s behaviour was needed and fast, the first day of school was around the corner and we wanted to hit the ground running.

When generating a systematic approach to behaviour management in a school there isn’t a one size fits all model. Schools and their communities are vastly different and it is extremely important to consider context sensitivity. Sharing best practice from a variety of sources is key to establishing a clear policy for a school. A very wise leader once shared her educational philosophy during my time in Dubai. An importance was placed on using positive language around the school building.

By shouting ‘don’t run’ as a child, a child will hear ‘run’ and probably continue. By saying ‘please walk’, not only is the adult modelling using positive language, the child will hear a reminder rather than a rule. Since then, I have focused my own behaviour management on using positive language and a praise based approach in the schools I have worked in. In my new school environment, I was keen to instil a positive approach which would provide consistency for children which helped them to feel valued and for teachers, a more time effective strategy which would have maximum impact.

As a starting point, through discussion, we decided that we needed a fresh approach with a strong launch to involve the whole school community. We decided to keep our rewards and sanctions as separate entities. Sanctions are still apparent through a traffic light warning system, however, they are now very much restorative and children are encouraged to reflect on their choices and consider how to rectify more negative ones. At the beginning of the school year, children discussed what that thought constituted green, amber and red choices and generated their own class set of essential agreements.

For rewards, we wanted to keep house points, but make the process less arduous and decided to embrace, linked to our learner profile. Children love their monster avatars and the logon is shared with all the staff, including specialists which works perfectly to ensure a consistent approach for the children. We have also colour coded them so the children can celebrate their house in assembly.

Having ironed out basic rewards and sanctions, it still felt like we needed to focus more on promoting even higher expectations amongst our school community. Star of the Week in assembly felt like a one-off, children realised they would probably only get it once in a rotation of twenty-four children, they had usually forgotten why they had got it and sometimes teachers were generating reasons because it was someone’s turn. I wanted to create a system which promoted above and beyond behaviour which had an on the spot, in the moment reward. Turning once again to best practice, I consulted the work of @pivotaleducation, which is brimming full of ideas to promote positive behaviour. A combination of researched ideas of best practice and prior experience led to the birth of Rocket Recognition in our school.

The premise is simple. All of the school community are expected to go ‘above and beyond’ in every aspect of their life. When something is spotted, anyone can be awarded a noticeable rocket recognition lanyard. It is emblazoned with ‘ask me how I have gone above and beyond this week’, and anyone can award them. They are expected to wear them throughout the school day and at home to promote discussion. During our Friday celebration assembly all rocket recognition lanyard awardees, children, teachers and any other adults, from the week join us in assembly whilst dancing to Katy Perry’s Firework and sharing their efforts. Their name is then put on a star on our prominent rocket recognition board and they dance out of the assembly to enjoy hot chocolate with the Head.

The response to our initiative has been amazing. There is a buzz around school about Rocket Recognition with our whole school community working hard to achieve the very best positive behaviour expectations. By highlighting this behaviour and encouraging discussion both within the school and at home, high expectations are constantly being exemplified by all. An example includes a Year 6 child who actively gave up her time to help a Reception child settle in by communicating with her in her native language. Three weeks in and we are surprised each and every day by the continued positive efforts of all. Most pleasing of all is that our children now feel empowered to nominate others. Mrs Page @AWJSHead, our Headteacher, received a beautifully written letter from a student nominating her teacher for going ‘above and beyond’, which we then of course awarded. Parents have also commented that their children are more motivated to strive for high personal standards and like that the focus is not just on academic recognition. Rocket Recognition is still in the early stages, and we will continue to reflect on the impact but so far we have a much more consistent, adjoined approach to positive behaviour management.

Click here to see this article freely in Issue 45 of the UKEdChat Magazine

Kara Dowson @karadowson is a Deputy Head at Akeley Wood Junior School in Northamptonshire. She has taken up the post this year, having moved back to the UK after seven years teaching in Dubai and Bangkok.

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