Rim Country elementary students were dancing in their seats when they were treated to an assembly filled with character, music and color last week.
The school district brought in Primary Focus -- a group of young performers who use songs, dances and skits to teach children to make good choices at school and at home.
"You'll be given a situation and you'll have to tell us if it is a good choice or a bad choice," said the master of ceremonies during the show which featured a lively game show format.
"Character is way down deep inside you," sang Primary Focus participants. "You can make the choice to dream big dreams about what you want to be when you grow up now."
Students were shown a skit depicting a girl in a game of hide-and-seek who cheated by looking.
"She wasn't being fair," the contestant said, and won a prize.
Trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship are the six pillars of Character Counts.
The program was introduced in the district about eight years ago, estimated Payson Elementary School principal Will Dunman. He said he has seen positive overall differences in behavior because of teachers implementing the program in their classrooms.
Dovetailing with Character Counts is the Arizona Behavior Initiative (ABI) Pride Program being implemented in the elementary and middle schools of the Payson Unified School District.
ABI is a different program, and money was granted from the state to implement it this year. The funding will last a total of three years.
"ABI narrows the focus to be responsible, be respectful and be safe," said Dunman.
"Out of these three school rules, we've asked all of our students to tell us ‘what does it look like if you are being responsible in the cafeteria, in the hallway, on the playground and in the library?' The kids came up with all the answers."
Some examples are:
- Children stabbing their foam cafeteria trays with forks and making a lot of noise or a mess
- Keeping the classroom neat
- We need to use our bookmarkers properly in the library, by putting the marker in the place of the book we took off the shelf
"They are coming up with the terminology so they can follow their own rules," he said.
Dunman, third-grade teacher Laurie Farr and librarians Stephanie Tuer and Jennifer White are collecting and compiling data on the answers.
Then, when an infraction takes place, data of what, when and where will be interpreted.
"We are using the data to build a plan to make sure we are in specific locations. If there is a problem on the bus or on the playground, then we are using the data to address where our needs are," Dunman said.
Dunman has learned to change his terminology when talking to students through his work with the programs.
For instance, a student might get sent to the principal's office or be required to call his or her parents for acting "defiant."
Within the school, defiance means "failure to follow the rules or the request of an adult, lying or cheating, (being) incorrigible or unprepared for school or class."
When a student has to talk to Dunman, he wants to know if they understand what they did or did not do.
Dunman said he doesn't think there are any unusual discipline problems in the district, as compared with other public schools.
Fourth- and fifth-grade PES students will soon practice the citizenship pillar of Character Counts and the responsibility rule of ABI and vote on what rules of behavior are most important to them in an assembly.