A program of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is greeting students at Newark Middle School this year, as the staff works to positively change school culture.  The program started with an introduction to Sean Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”.

Soft SkillsLast summer, NMS Principal Teresa Prinzi held a meeting with teachers for the purpose of working on the school’s Plan for Excellence.  “After much discussion and reflection, the group felt that if we could take time to teach students skills necessary to make decisions, create and maintain positive relationships, then we could make a positive shift in the culture and climate of the Middle School,” Prinzi said.

The suggestion of using Covey’s book was made by seventh grade English language arts teacher Danielle Ohlson.  The team found that another school district had success with the book, but sustainable change could only be achieved by establishing a consistent program.  They then centered their discussions on what would be necessary to make the ideas in Covey’s book an important part of school culture.

“Time, we needed devoted time to this program,” Prinzi said. “Not just time to plan, but consistent time to teach and work with the students on the skills. As an administrator, one of the most important things you are aware of and keep track of is instructional time. But the passion that was generated around the need for this program was immense and the potential outcome was equally immense. So, we took a leap and said ‘Let’s do it!’ Fifteen minutes every day was set aside for the instruction of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.’ We established that this would be uninterrupted time. Students would be arranged in small PBIS groups of 10-12 students, and without fail, we would have this class. And so began our journey.”

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