Kara Nelson, a fourth-grade teacher at Logan Elementary School, was watching “The Oprah Winfrey Show” one day. On the show was a segment about a program called “Challenge Day” – a day when teenagers, parents and teachers challenged each other to do better, not necessarily in scholastic sense, but by being more accepting, kinder and more supportive of one another.
“I took some of that program and made it for elementary level,” said Nelson, who’s in her second year of teaching fourth grade at Logan. “It’s a program that Logan has created.”
The program at the North Side school won the Chase Spirit Award at this year’s Chase Youth Awards.
“The program is based on a lot of ‘what ifs’ – like what if we give awards to our kids for a positive change happening within them or at the school?” said Nelson.
Weekly challenges can be as simple as students giving high fives to friends one day, or apologizing to someone who has been hurt by their actions, or simply saying a friendly “hello” to 10 people, Nelson said.
“Every child is very deserving of recognition for the impact they are making at our school,” Nelson said, adding that other teachers and staff have embraced the program and been extremely flexible, even when the assemblies run longer than planned.
Once a month, one student from each classroom is nominated for a Be the Change award handed out at the assembly.
Nelson said perhaps a student who used to not always tell the truth now has decided to stop lying. Or maybe a student has made a commitment to smile and lift people up instead of putting them down with rude comments.
Many students who would never get an academic or spirit award get Be the Change awards, Nelson said.
“If I give out an award for being the most responsible student or the most trustworthy student in my classroom, you can be pretty sure that same student will get an award again next year,” Nelson said.
Be the Change awards go to many different kids, and students can nominate each other by dropping a note in a Be the Change box, explaining the changes someone has made and why they deserve an award.
Logan started the program last year in February.
Today, 30 students meet in the Be the Change Club every Tuesday after school, and monthly 30-minute assemblies are now completely run by the students.
“At first, adults ran the assemblies – then we thought what if we put the kids completely in charge of the assembly?” Nelson said. “It’s worked out great. It’s up to the kids to do speeches and sing chants, or do whatever they do during the assembly.”
Another aspect of Be the Change is bully prevention.
“We show kids how to stand up for themselves in a positive manner, and the kids are telling us it’s made a difference in school,” Nelson said. “I wonder if sometimes we can be very negative toward each other if we aren’t aware of our own attitude.”
Nelson said Be the Change is definitely continuing through next year.
“We are trying to create a personal environment where the kids feel comfortable speaking up,” said Nelson. “Kids ask me every day if they can be in BTC – it’s a big deal. It’s about putting spotlight on the kids.”
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