Elementary Renaissance is Key to a Successful District Program: A Way to Create Leaders at a Young Age
By Dr. Michelle CarneyRay-Yoder
When schools begin to discuss cooking up a Jostens Renaissance program, there is often a missing ingredient: the babies. Designing a positive climate and culture should start with the little ones in your district. When you create programs at the elementary school level that Respect, Recognize, Reinforce, and Reward to get Results, your program becomes so much stronger at the upper levels. All students want to be recognized for doing their best academically, showing positive character traits, helping a classmate, and going above and beyond in some aspect of their school day, and the little ones are no different. The goal for any climate program in the elementary setting should be to take extrinsic motivation, add a sprinkle of leadership training, and some extra reinforcement to create learners who know how to lead. Put those together, and presto, UPPER LEVEL LEADERS! Here are some things to consider:
1. CREATE A COMMON LANGUAGE – When you are creating an elementary level program, consider what your middle and high school programs are doing as a part of their Jostens Renaissance Programs. Figure out ways to adjust their reward systems and leadership programs. If your students are using terminology similar to their older classmates or siblings, that will get them excited about wanting to learn and be a part of the elementary version of the climate and culture of your school.
2. MODEL POSITIVE ENERGY and EXCITEMENT – Create a program that makes them excited! Allow feedback from your teaching peers to see what works for them, then make it happen. One example of this was our building-wide token economy system. We learned quickly that some of our teaching staffulty did not want to be told how to reinforce their students, so we allowed them to apply the program to their classrooms the way that worked for them. They used whatever behavior modification system worked for them and we just supplied the “Tiny Titan Bucks” to use at the school store. Students received Tiny Titan Bucks for various rewards in our school store and could even buy “Perk Passes” where the teachers could also choose what perks they wanted to offer in their classrooms. Give staffulty choices on implementation and you’ll have lots of happy students and staffulty.
3. VTW (Visible, Tangible, Walk-around-able) LIVEN YOUR BUILDING UP! Color and creativity are a must, especially for an elementary program. Get input from your student leadership on what they would like to see and enlist the help of your art club or a local community art group. Have the adults stencil quotes and art on the walls and let your student leadership fill it in with vibrant colors. Use an overhead projector to trace images anywhere and everywhere. Just try to stop kids from helping! This sense of ownership goes a long way and the students feel like a bigger part of the process.
4. THEME IS EVERYTHING! – Especially with the little ones, theme is everything! Let them share ideas on what they like or shows that interest them. This will help ignite the excitement at the start of every year and help keep it fresh. Decorate your building with the theme and add to the VTW. Use a popular movie to get you started. Pop culture references will connect their home life with their school life. The most recent themes that have excited our students are:
Tiny Titan Heroes (Super Hero Theme)
Shoot for the Stars (Star Wars Theme)
Everything is ROSSome (Lego Theme)
5. START JUNIOR STUDENT LEADERSHIP PROGRAM – It is never to early to start student leadership. Call it Junior Student Council or a Renaissance Leadership Program. When the William H. Ross III Elementary School started our leadership program, we worked with 3rd and 4th Grade. The 3rd Grade group was our Spirit Patrol who decorated the building and helped with philanthropic events. The 4th Grade group was called the Trailblazers. They did the morning announcements, ran the school store for their peers, ran our academic pep rallies, and worked with Spirit Patrol for philanthropic initiatives. They learned quickly about being a building leader and felt a shared ownership of the Jostens Renaissance program at their school. This translated to more leaders when they went to the middle school program.
Every climate and culture program has to be original and based on what your district needs most. Do you need to improve staffulty morale, student performance or attendance, or student behavior? Jostens Renaissance can be the program for you. Start with where you need to improve and develop slowly around that premise. You will be amazed to see what can happen when there is a laser focus on your school needs and the excitement that students and staffulty gain when your theme is consistent and clear. The best part is that it won’t require any big money commitment to start – just your imagination and willingness to jump in and get going. We started with our mascot, a color printer and a ream of paper. We updated our mascot, printed out reward dollars (Tiny Titan Bucks), and re-branded our schools. The strong sense of community that you create for your students and staffulty will not go unnoticed. This school/community will motivate your stakeholders to want to be in school, and ready for the excitement of every day. For our most important clients – the students – an exciting elementary Jostens Renaissance Program will light the fire of positivity early in their school journey and create an environment of optimism in the one place they spend nearly a third of their lives.