STAYTON — St. Mary School here has begun a program in which nice guys finish first.
Faculty and staff give out "value vouchers" when students act according to one of the church's 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.
The idea is to catch students being good.
"We're hoping to build habits," says Rick Schindler, principal of St. Mary's. "For people to become good, they have to practice virtuous habits."
Students who receive vouchers can place them in a jar in the office. At assemblies, Schindler pulls names and gives small gifts like pencils or free dress passes. Each month, the student who has acted most virtuously in the judgment of staff gets to have lunch with the principal.
If a student puts his Bible away quietly after class or stands in line quietly, he might receive a voucher for goodness or self control.
Students may be recognized for kindness when they welcome new students or invite a child on the fringes to join the group. The award may go for generosity if a child opens a door for someone or gives patient instruction to a visitor. If students participate attentively and enthusiastically in Mass, the voucher may cite faithfulness or joy.
Schindler calls it "positive behavior support."
Teachers are working on including the ideas in lessons. Each month focuses on a different virtue.
"It's been really great so far," says Tiffany Tyler, fifth grade teacher at St. Mary's. "The kids get really excited about doing good things. The vouchers have been a good reminder." Tyler has observed, for example, that older students are more respectful to younger students.
There's a flip side. Schindler and teachers must continue to mete out consequences for behavior that misses the mark. He has asked staff to use language about virtue in the course of discipline. "We're all working on something," Schindler explains. "We aspire to be holy. It takes effort."