Students find it's nice to treat others nicely Weekly class teaches pupils about respect

January 24, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

When it comes to respecting others, Courtney Stevenson lives by two simple statements.

"You wait for people to finish talking before you start talking," said the 7-year-old second-grader at Glendale Elementary School in Glen Burnie. "And if you have extra lunch money and someone forgot to bring some, you give them some."

Courtney and her classmates are giving Glendale officials reason to smile. A year ago, an intra-school survey found that most of Glendale's 480 students believed they didn't get the respect they should from their classmates.

A group of teachers, staff and parents responded by developing "Starting Together for Success." The weekly class teaches children how to be good friends and students, and encourages them to avoid taking criticism too personally and to ignore bullies.

"We looked at literature and research that showed people who are successful are people who are highly motivated and feel good about themselves," Joanne Gardner, the school's psychologist, said. "That's what we're trying to achieve."

Dr. Gardner plans to keep a record and publish the techniques and findings for other schools interested in adopting the program that has turned Glendale children into diminutive versions of Miss Manners.

Leah Skidmore, an 8-year-old third-grader, said she has learned that "you should be nice because it's not nice to be mean. If you're mean, you might not have any friends."

Such words are exactly what John Birus, Glendale's principal, wants to hear.

"It's about getting along," he said. "We need to pay attention to those things, along with reading, writing and math skills."

The course also goes outside the classroom, giving students a chance to use what they learn.

The children have volunteered at a local nursing rehabilitation center and a special education school, Dr. Gardner said.

Positive reinforcement is one technique school officials are using to make the program a success.

A student seen doing good deeds might be named an "Excellent Eagle of the Week."

The eagle is the Glendale school's mascot.

Every month, teachers also choose three students from each class to join the "Excellent Eagle Club."

More than 150 students have been selected for the honor and have received a school certificate, a pencil and a gift certificate for local fast-food restaurants.

Jean Marie Hofstetter, assistant principal, said the program has reduced the number of referrals for suspensions.

The school has made five referrals this year, compared with 27 last year.

The transition from interrupting someone to waiting until he or she finishes speaking has not been easy, students say.

"It's hard," said Jacquie Day, a 10-year-old fifth-grader. "Sometimes you get really mad, but Starting Together for Success has taught us to get along with each other."

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