HEHS Launches SOAR to Encourage Positivity
When it comes to maintaining a positive environment at school, Hoffman Estates High School adopted a new program to encourage students and staff to “SOAR” in a positive direction, much like the school’s hawk mascot.
HEHS kicked off its SOAR program on Aug. 28 when staff members dressed in SOAR t-shirts to greet students as they came to school. Once school was in session, students attended a series of assemblies by grade level. This is where students were introduced to SOAR, which stands for “Show respect, Own your actions, Accept differences, and Realize your potential,” through a video made by HEHS faculty and staff, and a performance by the school’s student comedy troupe.
“Students were pretty shocked when they saw staff outside waiting for them before school, and it was awesome,” said HEHS Assistant Principal Josh Schumacher. “We invited every staff member to come help us kick-off the program, and almost everyone was there. When students were getting off the bus, they kind of stopped and didn’t know whether they wanted to get off or not because everyone was cheering for them.”
The SOAR idea is to have students model positive, learned behaviors in and out of the classroom, with administrators and teachers modeling and monitoring the principles. As students display these behaviors, staff will reward them with tickets that make them eligible for prizes at the end of each quarter.
The program’s initial planning started in the summer of 2011 by a group at HEHS that wanted to change the culture and climate of the school. After adopting principles from a school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS) and receiving training from Loyola University, a committee of 11 HEHS members started to put together the SOAR program.
Last fall, all students were surveyed about the climate of the school, overall behavior, and discipline. A similar survey was given to staff at HEHS. Students said they wanted to be taught aspects of positive behavior that they hadn’t been taught before. Staff also said they wanted to teach positive behavior. The SOAR lessons will consist of a 10 minute in-class activity each week, and every quarter is focused on a particular aspect, starting with “S” for show respect.
“Students need to be explicitly informed or taught what is expected of them, which is something we have never done before,” Schumacher said. “We have always thought that it was implied or that students learned it somewhere else, so we are going to come out and tell them through teaching lessons and videos we have made of what are SOAR behaviors and what are not. We have set this up to be a lifelong thing at HEHS.”
Schumacher said he already sees a difference in students and staff after introducing it to the school community, and believes this is a step in the right direction for HEHS.
“We rolled this out to the teachers on Institute Day (Aug. 22). Even from then, I felt a difference in the school and that it’s brought everyone together,” Schumacher said. “Having everyone out front to greet students with a HEHS SOAR t-shirt — I didn’t see a staff member without one, from bus drivers, to maintenance workers, to cafeteria staff — was good for students and staff to see that we are all on the same page.”