The Character Effect™ Inspires Culture Change at Warren County Learning Center
Free and Reduced Lunch: 80-85% of students receive free and reduced lunch.
African American: 21
Asian or Pacific Islander: 0
Students w/ disabilities: All of the clients are on an IEP’s with a span of mental health issues.
Teachers report significant culture change after implementing The Character Effect™
Improving a school’s overall culture may not be your primary goal when implementing a social and emotional curriculum into your school, but it is a welcome byproduct. Warren County Learning Center (WCLC) has seen that positive culture change since implementing The Character Effect™ at their school. Warren County Learning Center is unique in that is serves students from the region “that present with intensive mental health needs that require specialized and focused intervention and supports”. The success of The Character Effect™ in this environment demonstrates the universal effectiveness of the approach.
Much like Sands Montessori School, WCLC incorporated tenets of The Character Effect™ into their implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) within the elementary classroom setting. PBIS is the evidence-based three-tiered framework that is used to improve and integrate all of the data, systems, and practices affecting student outcomes each day. Utilizing TCE and PBIS has been an integral part of implementing positive behavioral techniques for changed behaviors at WCLC.
Warren County Learning Center has implemented mindfulness to create a relaxing, positive learning environment. This begins for every student at the start of each day. Every morning the students have 15-30 minutes dedicating time to having a mindful moment. Relaxing, mindful music is played throughout the school to create a relaxing and reflective atmosphere for learning. Mindfulness is also used to assist in the otherwise chaotic transition from the bus to the classroom, to put the children in a reflective, peaceful mindset.
The character strengths have become a cornerstone of positivity within the school culture at Warren County Learning Center. The school’s mascot, the Phoenix, has been incorporated into the school’s PBIS strategy for focusing on the students’ strengths.“Phoenix tickets” are given to students who utilize their character strengths throughout the week in a positive and healthy way. Teachers and staff intentionally spot student’s strengths and connect to their positive behavior by completing a “Phoenix ticket” and giving it to the student. The student who accumulates the most “Phoenix tickets” is recognized as the “Phoenix of the Week” for their classroom. Additionally, they are recognized school-wide via daily announcements.
Warren County Learning Center has intentionally created an atmosphere that incorporates character strengths and mindfulness. The school clearly displays the character strengths visually throughout the school and designates the strength of the week in the main hallway as well. These visual representations of the strengths are posted throughout the school remind the children of different strengths/behaviors they should be demonstrating throughout the day to be successful. This deep integration of the character strengths into every aspect of the school and the positive reinforcement of “Phoenix tickets” have been key to the culture shift.
Of course, the key to any successful cultural shift within a school is the teachers themselves. The Character Effect™ starts with teachers and focuses on their self-care which has made a big difference at WCLC. Comprehensive, immersive professional development empowers teachers to utilize character strengths and mindfulness effectively within their classrooms as an intervention to assist children in building coping skills to utilize while in the home, school, and community. It has also become a successful intervention technique for teachers who are struggling to handle crisis situations or difficult students.
A key element of The Character Effect™ is rallying all of the adults in a student’s life around their success. This, of course, includes the students first and then their teacher and their parents. Fun, community events like Mindful Strength Bingo taught parents to use a common strength language at home which helps to reinforce the importance of a child’s strengths both at school and home.
In previous years, Warren County Learning Center did not have the right resources to dedicate to developing and executing a successful parent engagement strategy, so this was a first for many families. The Character Effect™ SEL program includes the resources necessary to deploy successful family events for the school. We have found that families enjoy feeling connected and learning about each other’s strengths, helping to strengthen their engagement with their child and their education.
Shifting the culture within a school can appear to be an impossible task. We’re learning that focusing on teacher self-care, introducing the concept of character strengths to students, implementing mindfulness activities, and involving parents is a recipe for success for schools, families, and communities.