There’s a culture shift happening at Lynden Middle School. And Lion Pride tickets play a key role.
As part of a new effort across the building to promote positive behavior, a fresh system of explaining expectations and rewarding positive behavior has started to take root. The students are buying in.
“It is telling kids to think first, and then you want to do good in school,” says Drake Russell, an eighth grader at LMS. “You want that drive to do good. That tickets makes you feel good, and you get prizes for it.”
While officially a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, the Lion Pride effort sets out clear behavioral expectations for students and staff and rewards students for that behavior with Lion Pride tickets. Those tickets are then redeemable monthly at the Lion Pride store—run by volunteers and stocked thanks to a generous donation by a community member—that allows students to trade in tickets for prizes, anything from a bag of chips to front-of-the-line privileges at lunch or elevator privileges for a week to a donut party for an entire class.
“It is a game-changer for developing positive culture,” says Vince Riccobene, LMS principal. “It changes the dynamic of what you do in a school. It is about impacting the relationships, which in turn changes the culture.”
The project eliminates the barrier to understanding what the behavioral expectations are. “We can’t take for granted the students know that,” Riccobene says. “We teach the students that and then reward them. It needs to be explicitly taught and revisited and reviewed.”
Jocelyn Kohrs, an eight-grader at LMS, says that when people are positive it brings the energy up throughout the school. She notes it is easier to have a positive attitude when you’re working toward earning something.
“With over 700 students and more than 80 staff,” Riccobenne says, “getting us on the same page culturally is critical to our success.”
While the behavioral expectations are clear—high-visibility posters spell out the expectations via a PRIDE acronym for every facet of the building.
“It is not a given,” Riccobenne says. “Teachers walk around with a stack of these all the time. It is a way of highlighting when something goes well and a way to have a positive relationship with you and a student.”
He adds that LMS needed and wanted to improve the culture and that can’t happen without the students. “Getting us to row the same way by creating shared expectations in common spaces and classrooms and then rewarding students for it is how we interact and engage,” he says. “It has been powerful.”
The stories of how the tickets have been used range wildly. It may be as simple as Russell landing a new Seahawks poster or another student grabbing a model airplane set (pictured). Or could be as intricate as a student buying a “positive call home,” where one student who had been in a challenging time earned enough tickets to have a staff member call home to let his mom know what a great job he was doing. Riccobenne says it was significant for that family.
There are other learning moments too. It takes 100 tickets to earn donuts for an entire class. In the first month one class learned that by pooling their tickets they could make something fun happen for everyone, getting a little extra economics lesson along the way.
“It changes the culture and how the kids act now,” Russell says. “The last couple of years kids have struggled with being nice to each other. Now that this whole Lion Pride thing is it is actually helping with kids.”