Isom students put HERO into action

Isom students put HERO into action
Posted on 10/13/2016
You can find a HERO in every student at Isom Elementary. The new leadership team of principal Patrick McClure and dean of students Jen Vachon have made sure of it.

As part of the new school year, McClure and Vachon introduced the HERO acronym to students, encouraging helpful, empathetic, responsible and obedient behavior throughout the K-5 school.

“There was a strong need for more explicit common behavioral expectations for kids at Isom,” McClure says. “Rather than just utilizing the rules in place or the ‘don’t do this’ statements, we wanted to frame it in the positive, in a more teaching tone of ‘here’s how we expect you to act to be successful.’”

The HERO format was conjured up based on the helpful acronym, but also because Isom has used the Legion of Learners theme for years, which offers superhero characters showing off learning characteristics. Now learning and behavior can all tie together in one key theme.

A main role for Vachon at Isom includes implementing behavioral support, everything from prevention to supervision to intervention. “I watch the crosswalks, go into lunches and recesses to get to know the students and I check in with students who need support in in the morning to get their day going,” she says. “And I create and manage some behavior plans. I might help in the classroom, talk discipline with students, send notes home or call parents.”

Already she’s seen an improvement in behavior across the school and part of that is simply having someone with the time to talk to students and create plans and structure.

“It might be reading a story with them and drawing a picture, it might mean writing an apology letter or sometimes it is missing recess or going out to recess with them and showing the appropriate skills,” she says. “Having somebody visible to work with students who are having a difficult time at any point in the school is a big piece.”

But another part of the early success is working preventatively and Vachon says the HERO theme really puts a focus on that effort. She created a booklet of what HERO looks like in different areas of the school and teachers have gone over it in the classroom and parents have read it. A recent spirit assembly further reiterated the message.

McClure says the students are responding well, discussing in classes how to exemplify HERO and follow expectations, whether noise levels in the hallways or respect to a teacher. And the students had fun at the spirit assembly as staff performed skits to show off being a HERO.

“The goal over time is to build in reinforcements or celebrations of students being a HERO,” he says. “We haven’t planned that all out yet, but it’s the goal moving forward once kids know what it means to be a HERO at Isom.”

The HERO mantra will live on at Isom beyond an early-year assembly, as the entire effort serves to create a culture and atmosphere in class that is conducive to learning, regardless of the content. And with that, the theme—both Hero and Legion of Learners—can weave into literature, where characters are analyzed based on the traits they’re showing off.

“The main support HERO serves is to help classes be a community of leaners,” McClure says, “where students help each other, treat each other and their intellectual ideas with respect, are empathetic toward each other and obey instructions so learning time can be maximized.”

That defines a HERO at Isom.