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4.18.17 Letter from the Superintendent

posted Apr 18, 2017, 7:32 AM by Kari Osborne

Belonging


Dear Princeton Community,

I just read a book that I wish all people in communities could read.  It was written by Peter Block, and the name of it is Community: The Structure of Belonging.  It could be a required read for all community leaders.  It could be required reading for elected officials and business owners as well as principals and teachers.


This is the premise of the book:  

As time goes on, people are more and more isolated. Our country’s culture contributes to this situation with the emphasis on individualism, which is ironic since the world is “smaller” with the effects of globalization.  People have instant contact through texting, information through the internet, opinions representing every facet of life, and other technologies.  And yet people feel isolated.  Too many people feel they do not belong.


This is a society problem.  People want to feel a sense of belonging, where they are the owner or creator of the community.  What defines a community’s well-being?  The quality of the relationships between its members.  Robert Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone,” terms the quality of relationships as ‘social capital.’


As I read this book, I recognized how valuable PBIS is in our district.  Many people believe Positive Behavior Intervention Supports is all about getting students to behave.  On the surface, PBIS does that.  However, if it is done well, as it is in Princeton, the result is teaching students to have quality relationships, improving social capital, step by step.


What is Tiger Pride?   PBIS – Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is a framework to guide schools in creating safe, positive, predictable, and consistent environments.  It comes down to staff continually working to create positive relationships with students, parents, and other staff members.


The PBIS/Tiger Pride journey began in the summer of 2005.  Princeton was one of three district in the state of Minnesota to be trained to put this framework in place.  This journey is a several year process to fully put in place.  Even now, after 12 years, we continue to find ways to improve what we do with Tiger Pride.


John Beach, principal of the Intermediate School, is our resident expert in PBIS, and his accolades extend beyond our district--as a member of the PBIS State Leadership Team for the past 5 years, lead school-team trainer for the Southern Regional Implementation Project, and national PBIS speaker at their conferences.


As Principal John Beach describes it, “This framework includes creating expectations, teaching those expectations around the school, and acknowledging students when they make positive choices.  It also includes strategies to respond to problem behavior and support students so that students can be successful.  Schools put these systems in place school-wide, in the classroom, and all non-classroom areas.  School teams use data to help guide the decisions they make to adjust and improve what they are doing.”


Some of what PBIS has done in the past few years include helping students stand up for each other when there is bullying, making an effort to include students who might feel left out, and just being kind to one another.  You can tell the meaning and importance of PBIS themes by their titles:

  • Investigate the Possibilities (reach out to others; look for the good in others)

  • Be their Voice! (what to do when students see bullying)

  • We are North Elementary--I Belong!

  • Be Brave (what to do when you see bullying behaviors)

  • Minnesota Nice (being kind)

All of these themes help our students learn how to build quality relationships.  We could learn from our students.


When was the last time that we valued our interdependence and sense of belonging, instead of just living our lives the same as usual?  I challenge all of us adults to do as we expect our students in PBIS, to extend hospitality to someone you do not know.  I challenge you to create a new connection and recognize that person’s gifts.


Let’s see if we can get some of PBIS going in our community.  Belonging is important to children, and belonging is just as important to adults.  Who knows?  It could enhance the social fabric of our Princeton community culture!


Sincerely,

Julia Espe


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