One of the classes taught during the summer at Peabody-Burns Elementary School veered from the normal curriculum.
Students learned table manners, how to follow directions, how to apologize, how to accept criticism, and how to accept “no” for an answer.
“Because you’re talking about kids’ social and emotional development,” PBES principal Ken Parry said. “In my opinion, it’s as important as reading or math.”
PBES psychologist Katherine Young taught the PATHS class — promoting alternative thinking strategies — and said that she saw a marked improvement in students when the six-week summer course concluded.
“We all ate lunch together. When I was going around the lunch room, I heard ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all around,” Young said.
Young said the way students interact with one another and their teachers relates to how they perform in the classroom.
“If they’re polite and have manners, other people are more receptive,” she said. “If they’re rude, people are not going to like to be around them. When a student is rude, a teacher finds it difficult to help that student.”
USD 398 started using a different program to teach social skills a few years ago, which eventually became to PATHS. Students were initially resistant to social skills classes, but are now more accepting.
PBES has offered social skills classes during the summer and Parry said the school is trying to work PATHS teaching into the everyday curriculum during the regular school year.
“Over the years it’s become increasingly evident that students need to be worked with more on social skills instead of punishing them,” Parry said. “We’re teachers not punishers.”
Parry said the school needs to focus on social skills is because of students’ home environments.
“A child’s environment is directly related to their behavior,” Parry said.
Parry has noticed an increase in the number of students in Peabody who come from foster families and single-parent or multi-family homes.
Because of the school’s small size, Parry and PBES teachers can have more of a connection with students.
“Being from a small school district, a lot of times you know students and families better than a school of 500 kids,” Parry said. “If a student is going through a tough time, you adjust what you’re doing to help them.”
Helping students with social skills is part of what administrators and teachers at PBES are doing to make the school a more welcoming learning environment.
“Some students come very ready to learn,” Parry said. “Some need a little more help in the area of getting along with people and following directions. We’re all different.”