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Learning to do things the Irish Way

Rosemount Elementary School principal Tom Idstrom is pictured with one of the first students recognized for good behavior. The student is holding a giant-sized version of the ticket staff members will hand out.

Paper tickets, bright yellow t-shirts and binders full of statistics just might hold the key to better behavior at Rosemount Elementary School.

On Monday, RES staff and administrators introduced a new program known to adults as Positive Behavior Intervention and Support and to students as The Irish Way. It's a new way of looking at student behavior, a new way of tracking problem areas and making sure everybody is behaving the way they should.

RES is the latest in a line of District 196 elementary schools to take part in the state-run program. Red Pine Elementary School implemented PBIS in 2010.

For students, the most visible part of the program will be a new focus on reinforcing positive actions rather than correcting students when they make mistakes. Each staff member in the school carries with them a collection of Irish Way tickets. When they see students behaving the way they are supposed to - being respectful, responsible, positive and safe - they can reward the student with a ticket. Students can earn certificates and photos with principal Tom Idiotry. Part of each ticket goes home with the student so they can share their good behavior with parents. The other part goes into a jug in the school's front display case. If the jugs get filled, the entire school will earn a special reward.

"We're teaching behavior as opposed to punishing it," said Ginny Udelhoven, instructional assistant at RES. "It's teach and practice, teach and practice, teach and practice."

Monday's introductory assembly familiarized students with expectations when it comes to behavior in the hallways. As the program goes on, Irish Way ticketing will expand to classrooms, the cafeteria, the playground and the bus.

Staff members built up anticipation for the program in the weeks leading up to Monday. Mysterious posters hung around the school promising only that Jan. 28 was something to get excited about. On Monday, everybody at RES wore t-shirts with the Irish Way logo on the back.

The yellow paper tickets are only part of the PBIS program, though. Udelhoven and social worker Susan Piepgras both have thick binders filled with other information about the changes being put in place at RES. When RES was accepted into PBIS - they had to fill out an application, and at least 80 percent of staff had to vote in favor of taking part - staff members underwent training on new ways to address students who need the most help correcting bad behavior. They also learned how to track areas where problems occur most frequently so the school can make changes in certain areas if they are necessary.

Piepgras said the goal is to have four positive interactions with a student for every one correction staff members have to make. Staff members are instructed to say the child's name, be positive and be specific with their comments when they hand out reward tickets.

"It isn't a real big shift form what other people are doing," she said. "It's just more formal."

RES has formed a PBIS team. Eight members of that team undergo training three times a year.

PBIS has been in place behind the scenes since the start of the school year. One of Udelhoven's binders has copies of forms making note of student misbehavior both minor and major. Each one asks students to report what they were doing that was wrong and what they should have been doing instead.

"We've already seen a lot of change in our culture. Things are already heading in the right direction," Udelhoven said. "We already feel we've seen some changes in what's happening. The little teachings have already paid off."

Now that PBIS has been introduced to students, administrators will monitor to see how things go. When they're ready to move on, they will expand the Irish Way rewards into a new area of school life. There is no formal schedule yet, but Udelhoven and Piepgras hope to at least get to cafeteria, playground, classroom and bathroom behavior by the end of the year.