PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — When the bell rings for a change of class at Pensacola’s Pine Forest High School, students aren’t the only ones hitting the hallways. Teachers go into the hall and stand by the door, greeting each student as they walk in with a “good morning!” or even a fist bump. Students say they like that.
Senior DeAndre Williams says, “When we come to class, the teacher’s there smiling and greeting us and that makes a major league difference because I want to feel welcome when I come to school, and this has made me feel welcome.”
The greeting is just part of a 4-year-old initiative at Pine Forest High. School leaders desired to transform the campus into an emotionally safe and connected campus. The program Pine Forest settled on is called “Capturing Kids Hearts.” It focuses heavily on building relationships.
“If you build a great relationship with the kids, they’ll do anything for you in the classroom,” explains Billy Bishop, 9th grade Earth-Space Science teacher.
A huge component of the program is a social contract. At the beginning of the school year, or semester, students work with their teachers to develop a social contract for classroom behavior. They determine how they want to be treated by others and what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable. When you look at the contracts, words like “respect, golden rule, honor, kindness, compassionate” jump out at you. After the “contract” is written, each student signs it, as a promise to try and live out the behavior. Students and teachers say it’s working.
“The behavior is more in check because peer pressure is there that, hey, if I can live up to the contract, so can you,” says Bishop.
Williams adds, “It helps build a better connection between students and teachers.”
Senior Keith Robbins says “The difference I see is that everyone is together as one. It seems like a big family, like everyone wants to see everyone succeed.”
And, that attitude even spills out of the classroom.
“School spirit is at an all-time high,” says Bishop.
Because the students, with the teacher’s guidance, write the terms of the contract, there’s ownership.
“When your names on that contract, you know you better follow what we wrote on it,” says Robbins.
Tekoah Roby, a junior, says putting the golden rule in the contracts is critical because “You treat others how you want to be treated.” And he says that’s had a positive impact on a serious problem seen on many campuses. “It keeps a lot of bullying away,” says Roby. “If you don’t want to be bullied, you don’t bully someone else.”
There’s also accountability for the students, and the teachers. “You’re not going to disrespect someone,” says Robbins.
Bishop adds, “If we’re (teachers) not doing it, we can’t expect them to do it. And, you don’t want to let them down.”
And that gets to the “heart” of the matter… a learning environment where self-guided discipline “sets the groundwork that’s necessary for us to receive our education,” says Williams. It helps build a better connection between students and teachers.”
And, says senior Joshua Snowden, the Capturing Kids’ Hearts program teaches lessons that go well beyond the classroom, into everyday life. “It affects the way I treat people, the way I respect people, the way people treat me. The way I should handle things if something was to happen. It’s taken me on the right path.” says Snowden.
Pine Forest has been so successful with this program, they are in the running for a National Showcase Award from the Capturing Kids’ Hearts developer, The Flippen Group. Pine Forest High School administrators should know soon whether they have received that award.