Everyone involved in this incident felt good about the outcome. The monitor positively engaged the students, stayed within her assigned area, remained within her role, and used her skills to prevent conflicts that often erupt in hallways. The students recognized the RICE language from the lessons they learned in their courses. They demonstrated respect for their own role as well as for the role of the monitor, and they moved quickly to their assigned classes. The assistant principal gave the staff member immediate and positive feedback and was pleased that a potentially inflammatory incident had been averted. By taking these actions, the monitor, the students, and the assistant principal all advanced the shared purpose of the school: To promote student learning and school safety.
Ms. Kurtz used strategies she had learned in the staff development workshops during the previous school year. Custodians, hall monitors, clerical staff, cafeteria workers, security personnel, and other noninstructional members of the Centerville Middle School staff participated in these same workshops. Like the workshops conducted separately for bus drivers during conference days, these sessions were designed to help participants
- Identify the shared purpose of school as a place to help students learn and stay safe
- Clarify their own role in helping the school fulfill that purpose
- Affirm that their role includes establishing supportive connections with students, and
- Practice strategies to use RICE to engage students appropriately.
This chapter illustrates two major points: All staff can use noninstructional settings as a natural extension of the written curriculum and instructional focus. School staff can use noninstructional settings to help students apply guiding principles in settings where students move more freely, adult supervision is less direct, and no formal academic tasks are involved.
The Centerville Middle School faculty, staff, parents, and students consider hallway behavior an important element of the school curriculum. In the hallways, students have the opportunity to apply the guiding principles as they interact with one another, with teachers, and with other adults in an informal and supportive way. The hallways offer students a unique mix of instruction, counsel, and discipline. They function as environments that help students better understand themselves, secure a place of importance in their peer group, and make appropriate contact with adults.
In previous years, student behavior in the hallways included running, pushing, cursing, and shouting to kissing, fighting, and bullying. Students saw the hallways as places to cut class, harass schoolmates, and avoid adults. Between classes, the teachers and administrators were generally in their classrooms or offices. The monitors and security guards often congregated in corners with one another or with a handful of students. The staff voiced concerns about students being late to class, showing disrespect, and often entering class in an agitated mood in response to a hallway incident. These concerns were raised at monthly meetings of the school safety team. This group of administrators, teachers, noninstructional staff, parents, and students recommended that all stakeholders, including students, should apply the guiding principles in the way they fulfill their respective roles in the hallways:
- Students fulfill their role by moving quickly and safely to their destinations and by interacting appropriately with others.
- Teachers fulfill their role by being visible outside their classrooms or in other assigned locations during class changes. In this role, the teachers monitor student behavior and interact with students, thereby promoting school safety.
- Administrators fulfill their role by actively monitoring and engaging students in the hallways and in other noninstructional areas of the building.
- Monitors and security guards fulfill their role by actively observing students and adults, by communicating with others as needed, and by helping students move quickly and safely to their destinations.
- Parents fulfill their role by following school procedures for visitors and by encouraging their children to use the guiding principles throughout the day.
The Centerville Middle School faculty, staff, students, and parents adopted the team's recommendations. As a result, all stakeholders began to appreciate how such noninstructional settings as hallways provide opportunities to apply the guiding principles to achieve goals about student learning and school safety. The hallway is now intentionally used as a component of the curriculum.
On her way to her physical education class, Nicole exchanged greetings with several staff members in the hallway and reminded a friend to save a seat for her at lunch. As she entered class, she saw the athletic director and the teacher organizing students into teams to brainstorm solutions to a current problem: students sharing lockers, losing property, and violating school policies and procedures for locker safety.
The athletic director, Mr. Bracken, started the class by reading the highlights of a letter he received at a recent PTA meeting:
I am writing to ask for your help. My daughter and her friend share a locker and now all its contents are missing, including a special bracelet given to my daughter by her grandmother. This is the second time that my daughter's property has disappeared this school year. I am writing to inform you of this problem and to say that I expect property to be safe when it's in a locker at school. I expect this problem will be solved.
After reading this letter aloud, Mr. Bracken helped the group reach agreement with the parent. The teacher paraphrased their shared view by stating that “we all expect property to be safe in our school. We all have a role in using RICE to achieve our shared goals to learn well and to stay safe.”
Mr. Bracken quickly focused the group on strategies that each person could use to fulfill a role in creating and maintaining a safe and secure school environment. In this way, he transformed the problem into a decision-making opportunity. He posed the following three questions, and students worked in their teams to develop their suggestions, which were shared at the next school safety team meeting.
- If a student asks you to share your locker, what are two things you can say or do to follow locker procedures and cope with peer pressure?
- If you see or hear of a student opening a locker that isn't her own, breaking into lockers, or stealing property, which adult in the school would you involve and what would you say?
- If you see or hear that someone has brought to school an illegal substance, a weapon, or some other item not permitted on school grounds, which adult in the school would you involve and what would you say?
At the end of this lesson, Mr. Bracken and the physical education teacher, Mr. Chi, collected the materials and shared key results with the students. Although the students offered many appropriate suggestions, the most frequently mentioned response to the first question was that alternatives do exist and that students would like some training in face-saving techniques for dealing with peer pressure. This problem-solving experience was a success because it offered developmentally appropriate decision-making opportunities for middle school students to apply the guiding principles to better understand themselves and their actions.
Over the next two weeks, Mr. Bracken shared the results of the brainstorming session with the members of the administrative council, who agreed that the entire faculty and the school safety team should receive the same information. One short-term outcome of this learning activity was the school safety team's recommendation that three monitors be assigned to physical education locker room areas for the first and last seven minutes of each class period. Two long-term outcomes followed. First, the administrators, teachers, pupil personnel, and students taught students how to reach out for appropriate adult support. Second, adults participated in professional development activities to learn how to connect with middle school students in receptive and responsive ways. In response to the parent who wrote the letter, Mr. Bracken shared the variety of ways the school had addressed her concerns and invited her to attend the next PTA meeting, which was to focus on the parent's role in promoting school safety.
The need to provide appropriate adult support is an issue for all noninstructional areas. The Centerville Middle School cafeteria incorporates adult support into activities that are interesting to students and related to the goals of the school.
As Nicole entered the cafeteria, her friend Susann called out, “I saved your seat!” Nicole nodded and waved and joined the salad line. The salad line and two other food stations are a new way the cafeteria is able to offer a menu that appeals to students and satisfies federal requirements for school lunches, while improving the flow of student traffic and reducing wait time.
In previous years, members of the school community had identified the student cafeteria as a noninstructional area where students were cutting class, fighting, behaving disrespectfully, throwing food, and engaging in other behaviors that threatened school safety and security. The adults who worked in the cafeteria felt unappreciated. They were often the target of complaints by parents, students, and staff. When students were referred to administrators for disciplinary infractions, they complained about the way the adults and other students interacted in the cafeteria. A cafeteria committee of staff, students, the food service director, representatives of the school, and lunch room monitors met four times over the course of a year to align cafeteria practices and procedures with the guiding principles. They put into place the following goals and actions:
- To reduce wait time and increase speed of purchase, three specialized, fast-moving food stations have replaced the single line for all food purchases.
- To improve safety, conduct, and communications within the cafeteria, students and staff apply the guiding principles to all circumstances, including when they feel frustrated, anxious, or angry. Adults are interspersed appropriately throughout the cafeteria so that they can make positive connections with students in a relaxed and supportive way.
- To make the cafeteria a more welcoming environment, student-created murals and posters that illustrate the guiding principles of RICE in the cafeteria decorate the walls. Students and staff fulfill their roles to keep the cafeteria clean and orderly. The art class designed a new weekly menu, which is posted outside the cafeteria and on the school's Web page.
- To improve the use of time in the cafeteria, selected student service personnel are available during lunch periods, including guidance counselors, social workers, drug counselors, club advisors, and peer mediation leaders. Teachers and students' peers offer extra academic help and tutoring. Preliminary college and career planning activities, appropriate to middle school students, are available and include videoclips, print materials, guest speakers, and demonstrations.
Seventh graders Nicole and Susann quickly finish eating and move to the extra-help table where they tutor 6th grade students in math. In a semiprivate corner of the cafeteria, their friend Lauren talks with her guidance counselor about some difficulty she is having with another student.
These students use their time productively because the entire cafeteria program is structured to help the school achieve its learning and safety goals. As a result of careful, goal-oriented planning, professional development, and student involvement, the cafeteria is another noninstructional area where staff apply the curriculum and the schoolwide instructional focus to help students develop and apply character and conduct skills.
Conference days now include workshops for cafeteria staff to brainstorm and practice using the guiding principles to fulfill their role in relation to the school's safety and learning goals. The cafeteria staff understand how they affect student behavior in the cafeteria and feel supported by the entire school community.
The cafeteria is a unique noninstructional setting, in that time and space are available to meet student needs without interrupting instructional time or keeping students after school. The staff and students of Centerville Middle School have transformed the normative structure of the cafeteria and have improved both learning and school safety in the process.
As Nicole walked quickly to the nurse's office to use the restroom that all the girls call “the clean one,” she made a mental note to raise the cleanliness issue at her student advisory meeting that afternoon. Nicole, Lauren, and many of their friends, both male and female, had observed the following behaviors and conditions in student restrooms:
- Lack of supervision
- Students smoking cigarettes and using controlled substances
- Students cutting class
- Intimidation and bullying
- Inadequate supplies
- Vandalism and graffiti
- Dirty conditions and poor maintenance
- Door locks or entire doors missing
- Lack of regard for human dignity
Students, staff, and parents expressed many concerns about these conditions. At a special meeting of the Centerville Middle School student advisory council, administrators, faculty leaders, the school nurse, and parents joined with students to consider how to extend the guiding principles into daily practices associated with student restrooms. In the course of this and subsequent meetings, students and staff worked together to create an action plan that included a time line. They organized the action plan around the roles of the individual members of the group; each member had a specific series of tasks to complete within the given time frame.
For example, the administrators were responsible for three major activities: scheduling and supervising the adults stationed outside all open restrooms and ensuring that school procedures are followed; conducting a cost-benefit analysis comparing the costs and benefits of increasing staff to monitor restrooms with the costs of vandalism, repairs, maintenance, and negative public image; and supervising appropriate custodial staff to follow proper restroom maintenance routines and standards of cleanliness.
The students took responsibility for a range of actions: implementing a schoolwide health information campaign linking the guiding principles to behaviors that promote health and safety in the restrooms; encouraging students to use the guiding principles to protect school property, use basic restroom etiquette, and respond appropriately to adult supervision of restroom facilities; and collaborating with the art and health teachers to provide informative, supportive, and attractive art for the restrooms.
Parents agreed to help their children use the guiding principles to take personal responsibility for their actions in the restrooms and throughout the school. In addition, parents supported an initiative for a capital-improvement project to update Centerville Middle School restrooms.
Teachers agreed to take immediate steps: to routinely walk into the restrooms; to respond promptly when they become aware of rumors about, or evidence of, problem behavior in the restrooms; and to follow school procedures for referring all such problems.
The school nurse agreed to fulfill her role to provide comprehensive school health education. Many students make connections with the school nurse because her noninstructional, supportive setting offers students relief from the pressures that surround them. Ms. Laurette, the school nurse, uses these opportunities to help students use the guiding principles to cope with their everyday stresses and to follow school procedures to get the help they need.
When Nicole and Susann arrived at their sixth-period math class, Ben was already seated, directly behind them. Instead of greeting them as he normally did, Ben seemed to ignore them. Susann tried to get his attention by smiling and turning around quickly to look at him. Nothing worked. Susann even thought that he was saying things about her to Rosalie. Susann wanted to cry but was afraid that the others would see her. “What's the matter?” Nicole whispered. Susann shook her head and covered her face with her hands. As Mr. Marks walked past her, Susann told him that she felt sick and needed a pass to the clinic. Although Susann knew that she should not leave the math class, especially because they were reviewing for tomorrow's test, she felt that hiding her emotions from the class was more important. Mr. Marks handed her the pass, and Susann cried as she walked to the clinic.
Ms. Laurette, the school nurse, invited Susann to sit by her desk and inquired about her symptoms. Susann continued to cry as she explained how she felt about the way Ben treated her. Ms. Laurette listened compassionately and affirmed how upsetting it can be when we think that people we care about are ignoring us. As Susann regained composure, they worked together to help Susann review her behavior. For example, she recognized a pattern of leaving class and coming to the clinic when she was upset. Susan agreed to use impulse control to cope with her emotions so that she could focus on her work. She also agreed to meet with the guidance counselor to develop a plan to handle her emotions. Ms. Laurette encouraged Susann to come to her office just to say hello and to touch base on her way out of the building each day—when she has time.
When Susann left, Ms. Laurette called Susann's guidance counselor and shared her concerns about Susann's pattern of leaving class and visiting the clinic. They agreed that Susann would benefit from a plan to help her use impulse control more effectively and consistently. When Susann returned to class, she quietly asked Nicole for the review notes she missed during the few minutes she had been away. At the end of the period, Mr. Marks dropped into the clinic to check with Ms. Laurette about Susann. He agreed with Ms. Laurette's assessment of Susann's pattern of behavior and indicated that he would monitor her requests for passes.
This scenario illustrates how each stakeholder used the guiding principles to fulfill a role in the schoolwide effort to help students focus on learning and feeling safe. Susann asked for appropriate adult support instead of getting involved in an argument with Ben or acting out in class. Mr. Marks communicated with the nurse, who in turn accomplished three goals: (1) she fostered a positive connection with a student in need; (2) she helped Susann regain her composure so that she could return to class quickly; and (3) she referred Susann to a guidance counselor for support.
Consistent with the school's goal to improve the use of time by offering planned activities during students' lunch periods, Susann's guidance counselor met with her the next day in the cafeteria. Over several weeks, Susann gradually eliminated her visits to the nurse during class time. As Ms. Laurette suggested, Susann occasionally stops by the nurse's office after school.
At the end of the day, Susann, Nicole, Robbie, and Ben passed each other in the bus parking lot and joked as they boarded buses to go home. The Centerville staff views the bus area as another place to exercise the guiding principles because it presents many opportunities for the staff to make individual connections with students and enhance student safety.
In previous years, the Centerville Middle School staff found that many problems stemmed from the conflicts that occurred in the bus area during arrival and dismissal times. Staff, bus drivers, parents, and students lodged complaints about fighting, bullying, name calling, pushing, and vandalism. In addition, students and staff were placed in jeopardy by adults who ignored laws, district policies, and school procedures for driving and parking on school grounds and for picking up and dropping off students. Often, unattended vehicles prevented buses from entering or exiting in a safe and timely fashion. These problems undermined school safety and interfered with instructional time.
During the annual review of the Centerville Middle School's safety plan, the administrative team determined that the parking area offered opportunities for applying the guiding principles of respect, impulse control, compassion, and equity, as did the other noninstructional settings. Following the approach used to reorganize the cafeteria, the team set the following key goals and completed or supported the following actions:
- To improve safety, conduct, and communication in the bus and parking areas, the school community publicized the existing laws, district policies, and school procedures to each group of stakeholders. The administrators addressed the PTA; the principal included information in the monthly newsletter; the school newspaper featured a story with tips for parents; the Community Oriented Policing Enforcement (COPE) officer helped the students understand their role in promoting their own safety and that of others in all traffic-related areas, including the school bus area; the Centerville Teacher's Association included a related update in its monthly newsletter; and the student government led a poster campaign with the art club to remind students to follow the bus area safety procedures. The school also provided stakeholder groups with feedback indicating the results of the bus and parking area safety initiative.
- To make the bus and parking areas safe, school personnel followed traffic and safety standards for painting and maintaining demarcation lines, and they posted and maintained traffic signs. They also installed signs welcoming students, parents, and other community members to school, thereby extending the theme of safe schools to the parking lot and the community. School staff enforced laws, policies, and procedures consistently. The administration reassigned security and other staff to ensure safety and to improve connections between students and school staff. For example, security and other staff refer to students by name, use standard greetings, and model other respectful interactions that set a positive tone at the beginning and the end of each school day.
- To reduce wait time for students as they prepare to exit or enter buses or cars safely, and for buses and cars to exit or enter the premises safely, security and other school staff make contact with students while encouraging them to enter or exit the school quickly. Bus traffic and automobile traffic were separated to improve traffic flow; to increase safety; and to help bus drivers, parents, and other adults model appropriate behaviors consistent with the guiding principles.
The buses and parking areas offer unique opportunities to promote the guiding principles across the school community because every student and staff member experiences the rituals of arrival and departure. The Centerville Middle School arrival and departure procedures encourage students and staff to feel part of a safe and welcoming community and help them fulfill their roles. Because parents and other adults have a more active role in this setting than in any other school-based location, Centerville parents needed to understand that their decisions to follow laws and procedures in the parking lot help their children follow rules and procedures throughout the day.
Through a series of workshops conducted on conference days throughout the year, bus drivers established a new connection between their role with the students and the goals of the school. They learned how to use the guiding principles to communicate with students, parents, and staff and how to fulfill their role. They felt less isolated and more supported in their own efforts to promote safety and to interact with students in their daily routines.
By taking a comprehensive approach to bus and parking area safety, all members of the Centerville Middle School community help students learn and stay safe. The faculty and staff find that their use of the guiding principles to engage and supervise students in the bus area sets a welcoming tone. The students enter and exit the building and buses in a safer, respectful, and orderly way. In addition, students arrive at class on time and ready to learn, and the staff on duty find that students behave more appropriately than before.
The experiences of Nicole, her friends, and the Centerville Middle School community illustrate how students and staff can use noninstructional areas and activities to achieve goals for learning and school safety. Figure 4.1 offers tips for how elementary school and high school educators can use noninstructional settings and the hidden curriculum to promote school goals.
Figure 4.1—Using Guiding Principles in Noninstructional Settings
Playground: Elementary classroom teachers, administrators, and monitors collaborate to help students apply the guiding principles to prevent or resolve the conflicts that develop when children are engaged in play activities during recess.
Cafeteria: Older students serve as buddies to younger students during lunch periods. This buddy system includes helping with homework, reading aloud, and other natural opportunities to make connections, engage in appropriate behavior, and model the guiding principles in action.
Buses: Students sit in assigned seats on the buses so that fewer conflicts develop. Bus drivers are given bus seating charts that include students' pictures and names. With this information, the bus driver can identify and greet the children by name and can protect the children from accidentally taking the wrong bus. The students also know the name of the bus driver.
Cafeteria: Students have opportunities to interact with guidance and other pupil personnel staff. In addition, centers for career and college fairs are offered, along with tables for peer tutoring, language immersion activities, contemporary issues discussion groups led by staff, and clubs.
Parking: Students qualify for a parking permit by following school rules and procedures and demonstrating the principles of RICE.
Assemblies: All students and adults use the guiding principles to demonstrate audience skills consistent with their respective roles in the school community. For example, administrators, teachers, and pupil personnel sit among students and model appropriate audience behavior. Parents stay for the entire program or performance. Students applaud appropriately for all performers. All audience members are quiet during programs and performances.