03/17/05 — Program at Brogden helps students set goals

View Archive

Program at Brogden helps students set goals

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 17, 2005 1:45 PM

A colorful sign outside Izola Barbour's kindergarten classroom at Brogden Primary School sets the tone for all who enter:

"We will greet each child with a smile and words of exaltation. We will do our best to create a safe, nurturing and attractive environment."

Messages also appear on classroom walls and students' desks at the school, serving as reminders of individual and collective goals.

Kindergartner Xanier Lonnell Tart's poster lists his goals as learning to say his ABCs "and how to get a happy face" reward. As for the actions he'll take to reach them, he wrote, "I have to follow the class rules - don't talk, don't touch, and don't choke nobody."

Goal-setting for kindergartners?

"It's so easy," Mrs. Barbour said. "We didn't think it would be."

But "starting at the beginning" makes sense, she says.

"If we start with kindergarten, they'll have a good foundation that will follow them throughout the years," she said.

Principal Wendy Hooks said the idea made sense to her, too, when she saw it presented by Diana Day at a conference over a year ago.

"When I came here this year, teachers wanted something for discipline that would help them better manage their students," Hooks said.

She enlisted the help of Day of Vision Management, who visited the school in October and encouraged staff to set program goals and in turn, train students to set their own personal and academic goals. In upper grades, personal, behavior and learning goals as well as the schoolwide expectations are taped to each students' desks as reminders.

Older students also created a "Pride Guide" folder for their favorite works as well as individual goals.

Daneisha Robinson, a third grader, set out to improve her grades. She said her aim was to be on the president's list and the honor roll.

"I have made the A honor roll twice" since setting the goal, she said.

Her personal goal was "to try not to boss my friends around," she said, with her strategies being changes in how she treats them and talks to them. She admitted they have noticed her efforts.

The kind and gentle whole-school approach to behavior modification is not just a theory, says Ms. Day, who has been traveling the country teaching the methods for 31 years.

"I don't believe that kids want to act 'badly' in the classroom or at school," she said. "They don't know how to be successful, so what I'm doing in the schools is teaching them how to be successful and teaching the teachers to help them."

Day worked for a time as a special education teacher, realizing that all kids need help, she said.

"I had enormous success taking my students up three and four levels in one year," she said. "None of them, not one of them, were in special ed afterwards."

She said she innately knew the importance of bringing out success in children, deciding to broaden her efforts and take her findings on the road. In addition to visiting schools and leading workshops, she has written 22 books on behavior management and motivating children.

The ideas are simple but not necessarily easy.

"The kids are capable of doing so much more than parents realize," she said. "In school, a child's success or failure is determined by their personal motivation."

Parents, she said, have an enormous responsibility to get their child ready for school, teaching the importance of education and what can happen what that is taken seriously. The parents' role is critical, she said.

"Parents can't 'do nothing' at home," she said, "not teaching respect, not reading to them and then expect that when the child attends school at six, we'll turn them into a respectful, polite learner."

Children are trainable at an early age and can absorb the tools to make the right choices, Ms. Day said.

"What we're trying to do is teach children that they have the power to follow directions and the choice to comply or become 'refusers,'" she said. "You're choosing where you are going to learn for the day - from a seat around your friends, from a 'refuser' area away from the group, or out of the classroom."

She said her techniques have been helpful not only behaviorally but in test score results. When used consistently from the elementary years, by the time students reach high school, she said some schools have had up to an 87 percent drop in office referrals.

"It seems so easy. As adults we set goals," Mrs. Hooks said. "We work with children every day and yet never think about what the impact could be if they learned to set them early."

She said Day will return in the fall to conduct a parenting version of the workshop.