Lincoln officials focusing on the positive through MBI implementation
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Lincoln Elementary School is in the process of implementing a new disciplinary policy, the second local school after Jefferson Elementary School to turn to the Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI), a statewide effort based on a philosophy on maintaining school discipline which puts as much emphasis on rewarding good behavior as it does on punishing bad.
“It’s an attempt to bring positive points to the disciplinary process,” explained Lincoln Principal John Bole.
Glendive Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis, who was principal at Jefferson when that school began implementing MBI, said the goal is ultimately to put more emphasis on positive behavior with the idea being that will encourage more kids to be well-behaved while at school.
“Schools tend to focus more on the negative. (MBI) is about focusing on the positive also. That’s why I’m excited to have it in the district,” Schreibeis said. “It’s more of trying to look at both sides of the coin and trying to reward our kids when they do what they’re supposed to do. It truly is a way to focus on the positive.”
Jefferson is in its third year of implementing MBI while Lincoln is just beginning, with Bole noting Lincoln staff are “two trainings in” with Montana Office of Public Instruction staff on implementing the new policy. He noted that when it comes to implementing MBI in the school, it’s not just teachers who are involved, but every adult in the building, from office staff to cooks to custodians.
“It’s inclusive. All of our staff members are involved (in the training),” Bole said. “Everybody can be drawn into the process of really rewarding positive behavior.”
Bole offered up one example of how MBI is meant to work. He said every teacher is handed a packet of “tickets” they can hand out to students “when they see them doing something positive.” The kids who earn tickets get to put them into a bucket for a weekly raffle-type drawing where they can win a prize, and also get the chance to put their name in for a monthly drawing for the chance at a larger prize.
“It’s all meant to be a statement to the kids that we’re watching for good behavior, not just bad behavior,” Bole said. “Bottom line is it’s an attempt to be as positive as you can be as you respond to discipline challenges.”
Schreibeis said that MBI — which is based on similar school discipline philosophies categorized as a Multi-tiered System of Support — has shown some positive results in schools.
“It’s a pretty cool program. It decreases the negative behavior by trying to increase the positive,” he said. “We want the schools to be positive for staff and students, and this helps us do that.”
Schreibeis said he understands that some people might believe that the ‘old school’ disciplinary philosophies work best or the argument that rewarding good behavior is coddling kids too much, but he argued that research has shown that all people, regardless of age, need a healthy dose of positive reinforcement to stay positive themselves.
“Research shows that everyone needs to have 10 positive things said to them for every one negative thing said to them, and raising kids is no different,” Schreibeis said. “It not only helps kids’ self-esteem but it gives them a positive outlook for their own life.”
He added that the idea of rewarding kids for their good behavior in school is really no different from the kind of positive reinforcement most adults strive to earn in their jobs and careers.
“Life is about positives and negatives, and even in our work we want to be affirmed for the things we do well, so these are life skills we’re giving these kids,” Schreibeis said. “We’re just trying to provide the same job environment that we all want as adults for our kids is really what (MBI) is.”
Reach Jason Stuart at firstname.lastname@example.org.