Establishing The Tiger Way: District Establishes a New Behavioral Program

Establishing+The+Tiger+Way%3A+District+Establishes+a+New+Behavioral+Program

The Tiger WayFor the past few years, Black River Falls School District has been looking for a way to emphasize good behavior while keeping it fun and interactive. This year, they have established a program that the teachers believe have shown success.

“The Tiger Way is a reference to how we think all of us should act, how we should treat one another. As a district we decided to go K through 12 with the be safe, be responsible, be respectful,” said Assistant Principal Jason Janke. “The Tiger Way is basically a district-wide initiative to have a common language for all kids and all staff to teach respect, responsibility, and safety,” said fifth grade teacher Todd Fendt. “The kids have really come around well, doing a nice job with communication, expectations. You’re teaching the expectations and then role modeling them to the kids.” Janke believes it has helped everyone in the district find common ground and that it’s more of a way to treat people. “When you go from one classroom to the next, there are similar expectations. You’re not going to get that ‘mom said no, so I’m going to ask dad’ kind of thing. We need to have that commonality across the board, and I would shy away from using the phrase system, because I think it is just the way we should treat one another,” said Janke. The Tiger Way came from a program known as positive behavioral intervention support, or PBIS. “We just thought the Tiger Way was a little bit catchier and it would make more sense to kids and kids would identify with it more than the educational acronym,” said High School Principal Tom Chambers. Part of the PBIS model is to adapt the program to each school it is applied to. Janke feels that calling PBIS ‘The Tiger Way’ makes it more personal. “We all felt as teachers that we should make it our own. The Tiger Way allowed us to stay away from an acronym that was maybe something that is just ‘another thing.’ I think it makes it our own and we feel like it is going to help us,” said Janke Chambers refers to PBIS as an educational movement that is sweeping the country. “It is happening in most states in the country. The Tiger Way is something from the idea of that,” said Chambers There is a lot more to the Tiger Way than just ‘Be Safe,’ ‘Be Responsible,’ and ‘Be Respectful.’ “Part of the Tiger Way, is we collect data, find out what settings we struggle the most with and what kind of behaviors we struggle the most with. We then come up with plans to address those,” said Gebhardt Principal Mike Lichucki. “It seems to be paying off; as we progress in the year, the amount of office referrals have reduced by one a day at this point.” Not only has the district welcomed the ‘Tiger Way’ into our district, but administrators have also started using SWISS, a web-based student behavior application. “[SWISS is] an acronym, I’m not sure what it stands for, but it’s a program that allows us to track a lot of the behaviors that we are seeing. It also helps us to target those behaviors and where they’re happening, when they’re happening, who is doing it. So we can look at things that maybe we were overlooking,” said Third Street Principal Rick Dobbs. Another big factor of the Tiger Way is the Tiger Tickets drawings the elementary and middle schools do. “The Tiger Tickets are a reward system that we use, and in the beginning, whenever we see the behavior expectations that we taught, we’d automatically give them a Tiger Ticket to reinforce positive behavior. The plan, I guess you could say, is slowly you don’t saturate the number of Tiger Tickets as the students are learning the expectations. It’s something that you use more towards the beginning of the year to positively reward them and saying ‘yes, this what we expect’. Later on it becomes more of the expectations, so they shouldn’t be rewarded for what is expected,” said second grade teacher Jennifer Bolger. Although the Tiger Tickets have been effective, there are worries about students doing things for tickets, not because it’s the right thing. “It’s nice because my younger daughter can trade Tiger Tickets in for things she likes, like listening to her iPod during focus on a Friday. But, I don’t know if I’d want to see her in 8th grade still getting them for picking up a piece of paper in the hall. I would hope that she would do those things because she wanted to and thought it was right, not because she thought somebody was watching who has a ticket,” said High School Psychology Teacher Tony Boerger. Although there is some scepticism, most of the staff agree that The Tiger Way has been quite effective. “I think it has been effective, I don’t think that it has changed the world. It allows us to have common terminology, common ground in terms of the Tiger Way is a reference to working hard, doing the right thing, being respectful, treating people the right way. Just to be able to say Tiger Way instead of all of those things, I think is helpful,” said Janke. Although Janke states that it has not changed the world, teachers believe it has helped dealing with behavioral problems. “If I have a student that doesn’t know how to behave, in the past maybe some teachers may have jumped right to punishment, verses actually teaching them how to behave. And the assumption that they know how to behave,” said Bolger There are many more factors to success of ‘The Tiger Way’ than just having common ground and similar expectations. “If I talk to a student, or a teacher talks to a student, we use the same language about what voice level they should be using, instead of quiet done. It’s very specific, saying it’s a voice level 1, they know what that means. It’s a lot less confusing for the kids and they are responding much better,” said Dobbs. There have been a lot of school districts around the United States that have implemented this same program.

“It’s a well thought out system. It’s not something where we’re inventing the wheel, there have been a lot of school districts around the United States that have implemented this same program. They’ve had a chance to work out a lot of the details and a lot of the ‘what ifs’, ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ that go along with a program like this. It’s been scientifically proven to make a difference to help manage behaviors,” said Forrest Street Principal Chad Stanley.

“Just that every teacher is on the same page, just being educated on it and having the students going over it and the teachers going over it every couple of weeks has helped,” said third grade teacher Mary Repka.

Not only is it helpful with the students in our district, it is also helpful with kids that are moving to our district.

“Another neat thing about it is that with the transient student, those are kids that move in and out of the district, a lot of other students are also using PBIS. So it’s a lot easier to talk to new kids about voice levels and hallway basics and classroom basics and bathroom basics. They know what the foundations are,” said Dobbs.

Many teachers feel that The Tiger Way has had a lot of success, but there are a few worries. Tony Boerger expressed his concerns with one of his AP Psychology classes.

“As kids get older, does everything became about getting a Tiger Ticket? Do I do things because I will get an external reward rather than doing what is just right?” said Boerger. “In psychology we would call it a token economy, getting privileges for right behaviors. They work really well in prisons, they work really well in treatment centers, but lots of times what happens, when people leave those settings, those behaviors come back again.”

One negative with the Tiger Way is the time it takes to teach the expectations.

“A negative is the time. That would be a big thing. The time that it takes to teach the expectations, to practice the expectations, and then to revisit them again. Now we are revisiting them next week and going through all of the Tiger Way expectations to reteach them. All of the paperwork that comes with filling out the positive rewards and the ticket system, and the paperwork that comes with filling out an ODR, which is an office referral for every behavior infraction that you notice,” said Bogler.

Another challenge has been making sure everyone learns the Tiger Way.

“Teaching everyone the exact same thing at the exact same time has been a challenge.  Sometimes when students are absent, they miss a particular message or lesson, but we are working hard as a staff to make sure everyone learns and follows the Tiger Way,” said Middle School Principal Dave Roou.

Janke sees no negatives with The Tiger Way.

“I don’t think there are really any negatives when it comes to working towards respectful behavior. I think if there’s mistakes made, then we own up the the mistakes, but certainly we are working hard to do what is right for students. By in large students may or may not admit to it being a positive force, but I feel pretty strongly that the vast majority of students would agree it’s a good thing because people want to be in a good situation,” said Janke.

Boerger hopes that The Tiger Way does what it is intended to do.

“At some point I’m hoping that they are having those discussions about is it doing what we intended  it doing. Has it improved behavior, has it improved assignment completion. Or, are we just simply handing out tickets?” said Boerger.

The Tiger Way has been very effective with the middle school and the elementary schools, but not quite as much at the high school.

“We haven’t really done a full implementation at the high school yet. We have kind of talked a lot about it; you know character, responsibly, charge it, check it, respect it. Those are parts of it, rewarding kids for participation in athletic events with t-shirts and those things. Full implementation will occur next year”, said Boerger. “At the high school we’re not doing full implementation yet. It’s so hard because the 1:1 is so new. The charging and all that stuff, people are still trying to figure it out.”

The District is hoping to see the Tiger Way become prominent in the community.

“We’re hoping that outside of school catches on too and the community. That is one of the exciting things about the Tiger Way is we have more and more people in the community talking about it, hearing about it and putting it into place,” said Chambers.

Not only has it caught on in the community, it has also been been put in some the students’ home lives.

“The kids enjoy it. They’ve taken it home even.  A lot of parents are using it at home to help manage behaviors at home with their child. It’s been really positive,” said Stanley.

Although there has been talk about the Tiger Way throughout the community, Lichucki feels that they haven’t tapped into the family involvement piece enough.

“I’ve heard stories of different  parents that talk about the Tiger Way and how they use it at home. I don’t think as a school we’ve promoted that aspect of it as well, but I think it begins at home and the community would be a great next step for us,” said Lichucki.

Bolger feels that we will be seeing The Tiger Way next year.

“I speak for the elementary levels,  that there has been way too much time invested, way too much training done to staff, way too many hours of committee meetings to just try it for a year and just say it’s not going to work. So it will be here next year for sure,” said Bolger. “I think like with anything, we just need to give it a little bit more time. And realize that this first year, we are going to be working out a lot of kinks, there’s going to be things that we may find that aren’t working.”

With all of the time invested, Stanley directs the success towards the staff.

“I think the staff within the school district, all the way up to the High School, have invested into the program and have put time into this program and I believe everybody’s committed to making a difference with our kids and helping them learn what being safe, responsible and respectful looks like,” said Stanley. “I truly believe that all the staff in every building believes in the program. And that’s the critical piece to making it a great program as well as making a difference for our kids.”

Bolger thinks this has been so effective because we all come from so many different background.

“We needed something. I truly believe it’s not conditioning, it’s teaching students behavior expectations. And we can’t assume that they know what that is in our setting, because we all come from so many different backgrounds; what’s being expected in our home lives and we need to teach them, just like we teach math, just like we teach reading, just like we teach any skill to our student, we need to teach them the behavior skills too,” said Bolger.

Chambers has enjoyed seeing The Tiger Way take a life of it’s own in our district.

“It’s really fun for me to be in the hallways and hear kids say to other kids, ‘Hey, Tigers don’t do that’ or ‘That’s the Tiger Way, good job’,” said Chambers.

Janke believes that if we come together as Tigers, we can create a great school.

“I would really like to see, and I think most of us would like to see, us all come together as Tigers. It doesn’t matter if you are boy or girl. It doesn’t matter what your ethnicity, what your race is. We are all Tigers. We are all in this together. We can help one another out, we can create a great school. Everybody wants to be apart of a great school, I don’t care what they say,” said Janke. “Everybody wants to be apart of something great deep down.”