Washington’s R-Time Helps All Students With Life Skills

Washington Middle School fifth graders, Kris Cruz, Nate Cornell, Eli Nowell, Conner Degnan, and Ethan Pumford work with School Secretary, Sandy Pratt, on an active listening role model exercise during one of the school’s recent R-times.

“We are here today to have a refresher on our active listening skills,” said Washington Middle School Secretary, Sandy Pratt, to a group of Washington Middle School students. “We are going to watch a short video and then we are doing to try some role playing on active listening.”

Mrs. Pratt was teaching during “R-Time,” which is for all Washington Middle School students fifth through eighth grades for 30 minutes, two times a week for 11 weeks. The school completed the initial session, which began at beginning of the school year. The school will occasionally hold “refresher” days, like the active listening R-Time, to focus on behaviors that need to be addressed school-wide from data supplied by the PBIS Committee. Almost every staff member in the school conducts R-Time sessions in order to give students an adult mentor to connect with in the school who is not their teacher.

Washington teachers, Andrew Pihlblad, Sheri Brandes and John Calimeri created the “R-Time” curriculum last summer. They used the Second Step Character Education curriculum to pull out topics but modified to create a program that fit the needs of Washington Middle School students. The curriculum covers everything from bullying to empathy to anger management to coping skills. R-Time teachers are able to modify the curriculum for their individual class.

“R-Time helps reinforce the basic life skills that middle school kids struggle with on a daily basis,” said Mr. Pihlblad, Ms. Brandes, and Mr. Calimeri. “What is nice about having the curriculum taught to the entire school is that everyone is on the same page. Everyone, from students to staff, knows the vocabulary we are using. It doesn’t matter if it’s a student in your classroom, someone in the hallway that you don’t know or another student in the cafeteria, they all have had the same lessons and background reference and should know, for example, what active listening should look like. It just makes it easier to have conversations about behavior.”

R-Time gives the opportunity for students to meet in small groups and really get to know the staff member who works with them. Many students will go back to that mentor if they are having a concern. It meets one of Washington’s building goals, which is to have a student connect with at least one staff member who is not their teacher. The next step for R-Time is to come up with new curriculum for next year so that the current fifth through seventh graders receive new lessons.

“We are excited. Negative behaviors are down significantly in the building and that is thanks to a lot of different work by the staff,” said the group. “R-Time in the schedule gives us a chance to teach positive behaviors and life skills but to also have an opportunity to refresh students’ memories if the data shows that we need to. It’s also really nice that everyone in the school gets involved.”