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‘Behave with Care’ Philosophy Helps Schools Finish the Year on a Positive Note

The end of the school year is filled with excitement as students gear up for summer vacation. This excitement sometimes leads to a lack of academic focus for students. To combat this, National Heritage Academies (NHA) schools lean on their core values so students finish the year strong.
One of those values is “Behave with Care.” Driving this philosophy are what NHA defines as the three Cs of care: Capable, Connected, and Cared For and making sure each student feels this.
“We look at culture, we look at structure, we look at classroom management strategies, and we look at accountability systems,” said Jessica Glass, senior leadership development specialist. “What we pride ourselves on is building that foundation of culture, and then applying structures, the bones, for how we do things in our buildings.”
The philosophy of Behave with Care is built around the notion that every point of contact a student has during the day is done so through assumed positive intent. At NHA schools, that includes being greeted by someone when entering the building, when they get to their classroom, and throughout the day.

Students adding to the affirmation wall.
South Arbor students add to the school’s affirmation wall.
“Everybody is going to make them feel welcome and glad that they are there,” Glass said. “That is the intention and the point behind a greeting. It means having a personal connection with every student before they walk into your classroom.  You get that touchpoint by saying ‘Hi,’ saying their name, and welcoming them into your room. This is a standardized practice that we want to see happening across our whole network. We want to be welcoming. The easiest way to show that you’re welcoming is to greet and invite people into your space to learn with you.”

A Wall of Affirmation
Student behaviors also can be the result of other things that are going on outside of school. At South Arbor Charter Academy, Principal Fletcher Morgan and Dean of Middle School Christina Harmon saw an uptick in negative conduct that wasn’t necessarily serious but still noticeable.
Their solution was an affirmation wall, made up of kind notes students write to each other. Harmon selects five of the cards at lunch, with the students who submitted the cards and the recipients getting a “casual dress day” coupon. It didn’t take long for the halls of South Arbor to be covered in colorful, positive messages.
Kind notes on the wall.South Arbor’s affirmation wall is made up of kind notes students write to each other.

“It caught on like wildfire,” Morgan said. “The kids started doing it, and we tried to hype it up during opening ceremony. There’s so many good things going on that a lot of times they don’t get talked about.”
Incentives and Principles
The end of the school year also means testing season, which can increase stress for students and staff. North Dayton School of Discovery Principal Victoria Simmons makes sure to incentivize students by having field trips at the end of the year or have movie days when testing is complete.
More kind notes on the wall.

While those motivations help, core values are the bedrock of a successful school culture. Schoolwide strategies, or North Dayton Must-Dos, are ingrained in students, such as “do it again, 100%,” or “do what you have to do so you can do what you want to do.” These sayings keep students focused and limit unfocused time.
“At the end of the year, the messaging for us is really important,” Simmons said. “It's consistent messaging and making sure we’re doing our must-dos and then our incentives are at the end.”

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About South Arbor Charter Academy
South Arbor Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Ypsilanti, Michigan, serving students in Young 5s through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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