NEW PARIS — Through R Factor training, National Trail Local School district has developed a common language throughout its elementary, middle, and high school. This allows the district to improve school culture and form an identity for the district.
According to Superintendent Bob Fischer, the R Factor first came to National Trail in the spring of 2018. Both Fischer and Jeff Parker, who was superintendent at the time, attended a presentation where the training was described as a way to bring “common language” to a school’s culture.
Parker met with the administrative team to see if it would be a positive for the district and the group had a series of trainings to go through to implement the R Factor in the school district.
This common language comes into play with sayings like: “own it,” “be relentless,” and “complete the puzzle.”
High School Principal Mike Eyler explained, this allows staff, administration, and students to converse about behaviors in a constructive manner.
“When a teacher, or myself says to a student, ‘You need to own it,’ they know that means you need to be the best version of you. They know that means we need to work on honesty or take responsibility of our actions,” he said. “I think it has had a really positive effect on our culture.
“Our students are more caring towards one another and there is a lot of empathy between student, staff, and everyone there. Students are better at taking responsibility for their actions, students are more goal oriented – all these are things that we intended and wanted to happen with the R Factor and we’re definitely seeing that in the high school.”
Elementary Principal Ed Eales believes this common language allows staff to better show students what behaviors they are looking for, whether it is the elementary or high school level.
“It doesn’t matter if the student is a kindergarten or high school student, they understand the language of ‘own it’ and they understand what they need to do to own it. We’ve been working a lot with our students the last couple years as far as the basic behaviors we’re looking for. Our kids are getting a pretty good understanding of it and I think it is helping us have the kids be more respectful with each other, understand the way we expect them to treat each other, and the way they are able to live with their decisions,” he said.
Middle School Principal Jennifer Couch explained her students have already received R Factor training in the elementary school and staff is trying to reinforce those behaviors moving forward so the students are ready for high school. Administrators are able to use this common language when intervening in a situation to better discipline students, so the students understand the behavior that got them into trouble in the first place.
“That common language is there and anytime kids are redirected with a teacher or administrator or staff member, it is always tying it back to that common language and going back to our playbook,” she said. “It is not just words on a piece of paper or around the school building — we want them to live it. Our teachers are living it, they are modeling it every day.”
This common language has helped to bring the three buildings together as a district, according to Eales.
“I think it has brought all three buildings together in a sense that we can say the same thing. When an elementary teacher talks with a middle school teacher or a high school teacher about the R Factor, we all understand the same thing. We all know what direction we’re going – we’re all headed in the same direction with the same language and the same conversation with the kids,” he said.
Eyler added, this is “forming an identity” for National Trail, as the language seeps into the community through the students.
“If a student knows we expect them to be the best version of themselves, to live by vision, not by circumstances, and that everyone matters — that becomes an identity of why we’re Blazers and why it is better to be a Blazer. We have those kinds of concepts associated with National Trail and with the students we’re trying to turn out at National Trail,” he said.
Fischer has also seen an impact in how staff and administration reacts and interacts with students.
“We’re building that positive culture. We’re here for each other, we’re here for you,” he said. “It’s not just about the kids, it’s also about the staff being the best version of themselves. This has been a great check for a lot of individual teachers to self look at what they’re doing.
“We talk about building relationships in education, and relationships are not just about what happens in the classroom. It is about what happens in the hallways, or when you are at sporting events. I’ve seen more staff members at events that we host and events we go to, because staff are realizing they have such an important role in kid’s lives.”
In the future, Fischer hopes to bring the R Factor to the community and parents of National Trail students. The community has already seen an impact in the district, but Fischer hopes to involve them even more moving forward.
“The next big step is working more with our parents and getting more information out to them and giving that language to them. We also have focused on our teaching staff and students, another big piece is working more with our bus drivers, kitchen staff, and custodial staff. They are just as important,” Fischer said.
“We’re always still looking at what we can do to improve. We just had a small administrative team meeting a few days ago and our next steps is looking with our staff on what other things we need to focus on, what did we learn from this year, and what can we do better as we move into next year.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH