CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Once you walk into Jefferson Elementary school in Cape Girardeau, Missouri you are greeted with positive inspirations posted all along the walls and floors.
School teachers and staff ramped up efforts to bring more positive energy to students this school year from multiple developmental areas.
Jefferson Elementary Lead Learner and Principal Leigh Ragsdale first entered the school in July of 2018. She then immediately felt positive enhancements needed to be addressed throughout the building.
"We started by scrubbing bathrooms," Ragsdale recalled. "There were lines of tape for the students to walk on and we ripped that up and put positive affirmations on the flow of traffic."
Ragsdale also said they put positive encouragement statements along mirrors in the bathrooms and in hallways as well.
A number of school leaders also attended an intensive trauma training course in St. Louis to address student behavioral issues.
"Our trauma training was about really dealing with behaviors differently," Ragsdale explained. "Restorative discipline practices, really targeting what the behavior is and then how we work to help resolve that problem, resolve that behavior and work students through that process."
Ragsdale said the student attendance this school year has increased exponentially. She also stated the behavior referrals have decreased as well.
“Our behavior referrals have decreased by over 50%,” Ragsdale stated. "I also attribute that to our positive office referrals. They get those from a teacher and bring them into the office. “With every positive office referral, they also get a phone call home. So we’ve already made over 1,500 positive calls home.”
Ragsdale said it's extremely important to involve parents and family of the child in school related matters.
"Our families are such an intricate and important part to us," Ragsdale mentioned. "For an example; for our family conferences that we held in the fall, we had 94% attendance. That just goes to show that the communication is there."
She said it starts every morning when the students arrive at school. Whatever the weather is, Ragsdale said there are teachers and staff out there greeting the students before they come inside the building.
"They are greeted by an adult. They are hugged, high fived, or fist bumped. They are greeted by their name and a smile," Ragsdale explained. "When students are sprinting in to get to school, then we know we are doing the right thing."
During school, a Heartland News reporter witnessed a line of students where the majority excitedly gave hugs to teachers in the hallway before they entered another classroom.
“This is everyday that this happens,” Ragsdale and a teacher said in the hallway.
The students then went into the classroom, went to their workplaces and started their lessons.
Ragsdale said consistency is key when is comes to positive encouragement.
"Positive energy breeds positive energy. I say that all the time," Ragsdale said. "If our students all hear that common message, then they're going to carry that through the rest of their day and that is what we are seeing is kids just really making a difference."
Once the students are in the building to start the school day, they gather as a group with a morning message, chanting positive and encouraging messages, and end the day with two minutes of mindfulness where they focus on breathing and repeating positive messages to themselves.