After being inspired by world renown educational enthusiast, teacher, and principal Ron Clark, a team of motivated teachers at Piqua Central Intermediate School began an incredible journey that looked at how our school would develop and create a movement and identity that would transform the way we all viewed school. The goal of the program was simply to create a school culture/climate and learning environment that would be unlike anything the city of Piqua and those living in our community had ever seen.
Upon reading both the book “Move Your Bus” and the “Essential 55”, both of which were written by Mr. Clark, we created what is known as the “Indian Initiative.” The Indian Initiative program focuses on three main components: 1) Maintaining and celebrating high academic and behavioral expectations for all staff and students, 2) Fostering total student and staff engagement at all times, and 3) creating the most positive school climate and culture environment possible. The program itself falls in the category of a new and innovative approach within the last year or 2 because we are currently in our second year of opening our brand new school where we merged six schools into one. As one can imagine, this was no small task, especially with a building of nearly one hundred staff members and eight hundred students. The Indian Initiative team consisted of 45 teachers who were willing to volunteer their time one day per week after school for an hour to plan what our approach would be for the 2016-2017 school year.
Once the committee was formed, one of the first things we did was bring some serious energy to the group by creating slideshows, videos, songs, and visuals for staff to see that anytime we met, it was going to be a positive experience that worked on developing relationships and creating an amazing school. One thing we found was that with the size of our school being so big and all of our staffs consolidating, there were many staff who didn’t cross paths during the day and therefore may not have known one another. In an effort to change that completely around, we created four tribes that used the school’s acronym PCIS and mascot (Indians). The tribes are Pawnee, Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee. All four tribes centered around unification and instilling pride as Piqua Indians. Each tribe was carefully chosen as a native Ohio tribe and research was done on each one so we were historically accurate. Our art teacher created a crest for each one that includes a tribe symbol, color (school colors), and character traits that encompass the tribe’s history. We also created a school crest to include all four where we made sure that Piqua was a part of each, as well as the word central, so that we promoted a sense of community and belonging by all. Every staff member, including both classified and certified are a member of a tribe, as well as every student in the building who was “drafted” on Draft Day into their respective tribes.
The next step of the process in creating the program was to come up with our behavioral and academic “essentials”. What we came up with is what we call “The Indian Way” which consists of 25 essential skills that we felt would make our students achieve the highest level of academic and behavioral achievement possible. It is also intended to give our students a competitive edge over surrounding schools as they venture into the 21st century workforce by positively promoting effective communication, mannerisms, and old school values so often overlooked in the teachings within homes. Ideally, some of these skills translate into a positive interview experience for them later or increases their ability to be engaged. Some of these essentials in the Indian Way include principles such as making eye contact while speaking, using manners, greeting people properly, engaging in active listening, and taking pride in all that we do. The idea behind the Indian Way is also to teach these skills in our school so that parents and guardians begin to see a difference in the home, and eventually our community benefits from upstanding, first-class citizens.
In addition to the Indian Way that is now proudly hung in every classroom, hanging in local businesses after being promoted by the mayor of Piqua, and on the refrigerators in our students’ homes, the staff at Piqua Central Intermediate School began to explore other ways in which we could enhance our Indian Initiative program. We decided to brainstorm innovative things we wanted to have in our building for our kids and staff so that PCIS was a place that people love to work at and students enjoy coming to school every day. One of the first events to kick off our year and make sure our program started with a bang was to be one of the 10 stops across town for National Night Out where we invited families to come with music, dunk tanks, games, prizes, food, and more! We then decided that we wanted to make sure that both the first day of school and first week of school were done exceptionally well. We invited former teachers, parents, local business partners, and community members in for the first day of school to welcome and high-five students into the school entrances to wish them a great first day! We also held our draft day on the second day of school where we had famous community members be guest MCs, decorated our gymnasium with rope lights, tribe symbols, carpets, fog machines, and staff members dressed in their spirit gear. Every staff member and student was welcomed into our PCIS family and joined their tribes with pride. The tribes promoted vertical relationships among grade levels since teachers and students were mixed that way students who would stay in their tribe for their duration of time at central would already have relationships with staff members from other grade levels.
Some of the committees that came from the brainstorming and are now in place at PCIS include Motivational Mondays, Indians of the Month, Staff Spotlights, Principal’s Breakfast of Champions, Tribe-to-Tribe competitions, the PBIS school store/ticket system, Thoughtful Thursdays, Formal Dining events, Dress for Success Days, Student Ambassadors, tribe points, school spirit/homecoming committee, and a creative morning announcements crew! The Motivational Mondays include staff being allowed to wear workout clothes and exercise with students, along with showing motivational videos at lunch which are true stories to inspire students and staff to take a different look at life. These motivate students to make a positive difference in the lives of themselves and others. Our Indians of the Month get nominated by teachers that feel as though they are embracing the Indian Way to its fullest potential and who have been positive role models for their peers. These students receive hand-written cards from teachers and staff and their pictures are placed in the media and school website. Our staff spotlight is a fun way to recognize staff members going above and beyond the call of duty. They receive a banner to hang outside their classroom for a month, along with written notes from co-workers and the ability to choose prizes off of the “Woot-woot” cart. This is in addition to shout out boards in the lounges with treats so that our most “elite” and “best of the best” are recognized. The Principal’s Breakfast of Champions honors our highest academic achievement students who receive all A’s for the quarter. We created a custom invitation the invites them and one special guest to a special breakfast that features donations from community members and key note speakers to discuss leadership and the power that they have in making an impact on their community. This was chosen as one of the 2017 School Breakfast Challenge recipients by the state board of education. Our tribe competitions are both weekly and monthly challenges where tribes compete for their tribe’s points to be declared the winner each week. The Thoughtful Thursday committee has students writing positive things and creating positive messages, cards, and acts of kindness to other students, to teachers, and to local community organizations. For formal dining days and formal dress up days, we try to provide a family style meal opportunity for our teachers and students to sit and eat with low lighting, music, table cloths, and our cafeteria transformed into the theme of the month. Teachers provide homemade desserts to our students and special treats all while reinforcing table manners and etiquette. Finally, our student ambassadors portion of the program features some of our top of the line students being greeters at the home high school football games, being assigned to welcome new students as escorts to class on their first day, and classroom greeters who welcome visitors into the classroom by introducing themselves, telling the visitor what is happening in the classroom at that time, and asking if they can get them anything. This is just a small portion of the many aspects of the program that we believe have made a huge impact on our students and staff at PCIS. Our staff has already met to look at staff signing up for new committees and reflected on how to make the program even better for the 2017-2018 school year for our kids. We believe wholeheartedly that this program will have a direct impact on increasing student achievement building-wide, while also increasing students love for coming to school in a safe and nurturing environment. We welcome students, parents, community members, and business partners to join in our efforts to bring learning to life in authentic ways for years to come!