Living up to the ‘West High Way’

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‘We win, We engage, We are safe and We teach’ is West High School’s mantra known as the West High Way. It is a part of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support’ (PBIS) systems that West has adopted to help maintain expectations and behaviors.

Farnaiza Gulam, Reporter

Like any other institution, West is bound by its goals and ideals to provide quality education to students. However, the role of the school goes beyond that. While its main purpose is to give students the knowledge that is necessary for them to survive in the future, it is important to note that regulating a friendly learning environment also boosts student performance in school. 

Social worker Jenn O’Hare emphasized the importance of having a set of rules for students to follow. Thus, the existence of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) as well as the West High Way expectations are put into place by the school for the betterment of the student body.

“I think it’s important to have rules because without rules, things will be completely disorderly,” O’Hare said.

The West High Way is common language that is used to bring the Falcon Nation towards their shared goal. O’Hare says that it started way before PBIS was established by the district.

“It started a long time ago with coach Mark Bigler. He always talked about the West High Way: doing your best everyday and doing what’s right even when doing what’s right is not an easy thing to do,” O’Hare said. “Then PBIS just fits into it and makes a common language, which then I think makes it easier to talk about things.”

O’Hare explained that PBIS is a district expectation and West is working on having it fully-implemented on campus. 

“Every school in the district undergoes training and there’s different tiers of training. Tier one would be universal instruction and tier two is what West is currently on training,” O’Hare said. “And that’s really helping to address some problematic behaviors.”

In fact, the West High Way and its PBIS focus group received a recognition from the Davenport Schools School Board and the Department of Education in the spring of 2019 for bringing the ‘We win, We engage, We are safe, and We teach’ mantra into existence. The job of the West PBIS focus group is to get trained and apply what they have acquired from their training.

“We are recognized for being an emerging program in tier one implementation of PBIS,” Associate Principal Mike Orfitelli said.

But despite pride in the West High Way, it seems that some Falcons fail to meet these expectations laid out by the school with class behaviors, the use of cellphones, being on time, putting trays back in the cafeteria, being kind, and engaging in classes.

Orfitelli talked more about attendance and engaging in classes in an appropriate way, which includes not using cellphones in class and being on time. He said that these are the most common concerns at West.

“I talk to students about it. We just need you to do three things: be there and be on time every day, try because if you don’t try, then the teacher wouldn’t know what you need help with and then accept help. That’s it,” Orfitelli said.

According to O’Hare the biggest challenge in the West High Way is consistency.

“As adults, it’s our responsibility to be consistent and reteach things all the time. And that can feel hard because we feel like high school kids should just get it, but then reality is it’s not the reality,” O’Hare said.

Orfitelli said that reinforcement is hard with high school kids compared to the ones in elementary school.

“It is more challenging to take care of high school kids,” Orfitelli said. “It is harder for teachers to see the whole picture of the student’s actions and how they’re living up to the expectations compared to lower levels.” 

With the prevalence of social media, O’Hare pointed out that what is going on outside the school is one of the factors that is influencing the way students act inside the campus. 

“I don’t believe that we have any different problems than any other school out there,” O’Hare said. “There is so much that is going in the world and children are barraged with those images in the social media. There are a lot of adults that are not behaving very well and they are role models. So when the students see that, they mimic that behavior.”

O’Hare believes that helping the students to be consistent and positive can help implement these rules effectively. Trying to create a culture to positively reinforce students rather than disciplining them is something that they are working hard on.

“We want to be able to have conversations with kids and adults so we can work towards following those rules and having those expectations with kids,” O’Hare said. “It really goes back to having good relationships with kids.”

There is always a consequence for something you do or you don’t do at West. Orfitelli said that consequence is about trying to figure out how to change a student’s poor behavior.

“I look at the consequences as mostly being ways that we can teach students to get on the West High Way and maintain that level of expectation,” Orfitelli said.

Meanwhile, Spanish teacher Stephanie Hansen thinks that the school should call out students who don’t follow the basic rules.

“I think that they need to come down hard on the kids for not following basic rules because if they don’t, then the students will think that they get to make the decision since they have not been made to uphold the rules in school,” Hansen said.

Hansen shared that she tries to work a way to get the students to do what is right and make everything positive in her classroom. But she also believes that allowing students get away with their mistakes is going to encourage them to make the same mistakes all over again.

“When kids are not held accountable for their actions, it creates more of an environment for other students to not follow the rules as well,” Hansen said.

Hansen also gave her insight regarding the effects of following the rules to a student’s success rate in the future.

“I do think following the rules affects their performance because if they’re not doing what the school and teachers expect of them, they’re not going to be successful in life,” Hansen said. 

And in a study released by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University reports that behavioral misconduct and rule-breaking could impact academic success and reducing these will improve the learning environment in school. 

Without a doubt, the existence of rules and regulations are essential frameworks that builds up the character of a student and prepares them to be a productive citizen of tomorrow. It’s a two-way street that everybody has to work on.

“The biggest thing is to help each other. It can’t only be about the adults. It really has to be about the students supporting each other and staying on the West High Way,” Orfitelli said.