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It might not necessarily be bad news for a kid sent to the principal’s office at B.O. Barnes or Margaret Hearne elementary schools nowadays.
Good behavior is rewarded with a telephone call to parents, with photos spread across social media and displayed prominently on hallway bulletin boards.
The Good News Call of the Day is an idea borrowed from a principal in another state, but the idea works just as well in Wilson County Schools.
“A Good News Call does a few things,” said Daniel Barnes, principal at Barnes Elementary School. “For the students, it takes away some of that negativity of the principal’s office, that you can go visit the principal for things that are good, not just when you are trouble, which is important in building relationships.
“If the kids have a relationship with the adults and they trust them, then they can tell us things before they become disciplinary problems, and if you have got a good relationship, you help build the culture and culture is crucial to helping make a school improve.”
Students can be recognized for a variety of good deeds, great and small.
“It could be something as simple as finding a dollar on the floor and taking it to the teacher and telling them somebody lost something,” Barnes said. “It could be helping a friend who is having a bad moment.”
Students who have improved their grades are recognized. Older students are recognized for helping younger ones ties their shoes.
Kiyshaya S. Applewhite-Battle, a fifth-grader at Barnes, was recognized for being a good citizen, always smiling and welcoming other students.
“It feels good because if you do better, you will get recognized,” Kiyshaya said.
Dylan Reyes Romero, a third-grader at Hearne, was recognized for kindness displayed when he helped clean up after other children.
“It is just one piece of building the culture and climate that we want to have in our school,” said Kelvin Cyrus, principal at Hearne.
Cyrus said 71 students had been recognized in 73 student days at the school.
“What we do is not just the curriculum,” Cyrus said. “We are trying to prepare kids to go to middle school and be successful there and then matriculate through. It’s just a piece of helping kids understand that we appreciate them when they are doing what they are supposed to do, when they are kind to people, when they are a good student, when they are on task, when they are working really hard and not giving up, any of those things that are going on, we want to recognize them for that.”
Sometimes, if it is a kid who has been in trouble a few times, he or she will come into the office with a quick denial.
“I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it,” the child might say upon arrival.
“Then you tell them that they were nice to a friend today or whatever it was that they did,” Barnes said. “Sometimes they get emotional about it. Sometimes they will cry. They will shake your hand or fist-bump you and thank you.”
Barnes and Cyrus will call the student’s parent before turning the phone over to the student to listen as the parent offers congratulations to the child for earning the recognition.
Many parents might expect hear a bit of uncomfortable news in a typical call from the principal.
“That’s the funny part,” Cyrus said. “Depending on the child, a lot of times, you can just hear it. ‘What has he done now? What’s going on? Yes, Mr. Cyrus. I’ve got a minute.’ You hear it, but then you hear the change. That part is really fun. I think parents appreciate it too.”
Photographs are made during the call and afterward to be placed on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. At Hearne, the photos are placed in a hall display for other students to see.
“Everyone wants to be up there,” Cyrus said.
Cyrus said delivering the good news call is one of his favorite parts of the day.
“It’s about helping them understand behaviors that are ultimately going to make them successful,” Cyrus said.
“Kids need to know that we love them, we welcome them, but we do have high expectations of them.”