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Amherst school gives children ‘tickets’ for good behavior

  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair and talks to Tara Luce, the guidance counselor, while doing his math work  as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair and talks to Tara Luce, the guidance counselor, while doing his math work as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math with Jenna Tucker an intern from Umass, as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math with Jenna Tucker an intern from Umass, as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

    Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.

    CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair and talks to Tara Luce, the guidance counselor, while doing his math work  as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math with Jenna Tucker an intern from Umass, as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS
  • Jeyson Ayala Chiguila,9, of Amherst, sits in the principals chair while working on math as part of a reward for helpful behavior at Crocker farm school in Amherst.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

At Crocker Farm Elementary School in South Amherst, teachers are trying to catch children doing something right.

When teachers see a student on the playground who is including everyone who wants to play, or who talks quietly in the cafeteria, or who lets younger children go first in the hallway, they give out “tickets” to acknowledge this positive behavior. There’s a raffle-like drawing every week, and students who have gotten tickets can win prizes such as extra recess time or being able to use the principal’s chair for a half hour.

Anne Marie Foley, the interim co-principal, said children come to her to proudly show off their tickets.

“I’m shocked at how powerful this is as a way to teach them the language of cooperation, accountability, respect and empathy,” she said.

These concepts spell the word CARE, and children learn that this means they should work together, be responsible, treat others well and be kind. The school has a list of appropriate behaviors in each of the four categories for the playground, hallway, cafeteria, bathroom, bus, classroom and assembly.

There should be four times when an adult gives a child positive acknowledgement of behavior for every one instance of correction, said guidance counselor Tara Luce. Many of the tickets go to typically well-behaved students, but many teachers also use them as a tool to help typically misbehaving students by noticing when they are acting appropriately, she said.

Every week this year, teachers in all 17 classrooms at Crocker Farm are receiving five of the 2-by-3½-inch tickets to distribute. The ticket depicts a tree and says, “Crocker Farm cultivates CARE!” There’s a place for the student’s and teacher’s name and grade, and a place for the teacher to check cooperation, accountability, respect or empathy.

The student keeps the ticket, and a copy is entered into a drawing. Every Monday, two students are chosen from each grade, and their names are read over the school’s public address system. The school sends home to the students’ parents or guardians postcards that depict the entrance to the school superimposed on tiny photos of every student. The postcards acknowledge the student “for making our school community better.”

During the lunch period on Mondays and Tuesdays, Luce seeks out the children whose names have been drawn. She asks each child what positive behavior led to the ticket and presents him or her with a list of rewards to select from. For example, last week a sixth-grader chose reading aloud in a classroom from a favorite picture book, Luce said.

All the rewards are experiences, not material goods. The most popular one is being a helper in another classroom, typically one composed of children younger than the student, Luce said. “It’s very rewarding to be the big person and share your wealth of knowledge and expertise,” she said. The next most popular rewards are extra recess and sitting in the principal’s big swivel chair — in the child’s own classroom — for a half hour.

The other rewards children can choose are extra computer time, eating lunch with an invited adult, sitting at a private table with a friend at lunch, and spending time with one of the co-principals. The strength of the program is the explicitness of the desired behaviors, Luce said. By sending the postcards home, the school is not only giving praise to the children but also giving parents a message about the importance of consistent expectations and acknowledgement of positive behavior, Foley said. “It’s the same language in all the classrooms,” she said. “Students know how to behave, and know what authority figures in their lives expect of them. They can then rise to the challenge of behaving in such a way that enables them to be successful in school. Too often, and it’s no fault of the student, it’s not a shared language and it’s confusing for kids. Consistency is what kids need to have to know how to behave.”

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