The students at Tongue River Elementary School have undergone a drastic attitude makeover, thanks to a grant from the Wyoming Department of Education. The district was able to import Jon Oliver, a nationally renowned speaker and author of “Lesson One: The ABCs of Life,” who spent time intensively training teachers, parents and kids themselves to establish a foundation of social skills that enables kids to succeed in life and academics. Oliver says societal changes may leave kids and adults alike without a good frame of reference for healthy social interaction.
Oliver has a simplified list of rules for conduct that empower students of any age. From a first grade class all the way up to school administrators, Oliver teaches self-reliance.
Oliver teaches intangible concepts, like self-control or doing your best, via interactive exercises and games. For example, he will blow bubbles around the room and instruct students not to swat or burst them, even if the bubble is going to land on them. After the students successfully complete this mission, he likens the bubbles to a school bully—something that should not be responded to, but ignored. Another exercise requires kids to shake their hands as Oliver beats a drum, but all movement must stop when the sound stops. This, he says, is a concrete example of self control. Sometimes, he'll fake out the students by moving the mallet but not making any noise with the drum. Even if participants accidentally move when no sound was made, he reiterates that it's ok—all you can do is your best. Oliver also works with parents and teachers to establish consistency of environments between classrooms and at home.
First grade teacher, Sara Struckman, raved about Oliver's emphasis on a proud and relaxed demeanor to enable learning. Struckman said she has seen immediate improvement in her students since the program was implemented.
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