Middle School

Shaping Character: Kastner Intermediate’s Journey of Implementing P2

By May Moua, Ed.D. & Brittany Lee

Implementing The Positivity Project (P2) at Kastner Intermediate (grades 7 and 8) involved overcoming significant challenges to integrate character education throughout the school day. The primary hurdles included scheduling conflicts, given the variety of classes at the intermediate level, and cultivating buy-in from teachers and staff on the importance of character building. 

However, post-Covid student and staff pulse surveys highlighted the urgent need to address student behavior, character building, and social/emotional needs, indicating a shift from our pre-Covid strategies was necessary. 

Therefore, the administration collaborated to revise the master and bell schedules, facilitating built-in time for P2 activities and leading to the creation of a campus culture team focused on positive reinforcement and recognition. Central to this initiative was the formation of a leadership class, initiated by the Principal and Activities Director, to champion P2 principles among students.

P2 Implementation Process

The journey began in the fall of 2022, with the introduction of the P2 curriculum during Advisory period and gradually expanding to include the entire student body by the 2023-24 school year. Teachers were expected to deliver at least one P2 lesson each week during this time, a requirement that extended beyond mere compliance to foster genuine engagement. To monitor and enhance P2’s effectiveness, student representatives were selected to provide feedback on its implementation.

The student representatives expressed a desire to extend beyond mere class discussions, aiming to encourage a deeper mindfulness among students about their campus behavior. This led to the inception of monthly challenges based on the P2 curriculum. Together, the representatives and I reviewed upcoming character strengths, allowing students to vote on which trait they wanted to focus on for the school’s challenge. The class that emerged victorious in these challenges would be rewarded with incentives such as donuts, pizza, or free time in the recreational arcade room, affectionately known as the “Thunderdome.”

Additionally, we announce the P2 character strength of the week each day during morning announcements to reinforce the concepts being taught and discussed in class. Throughout the year, the administration visits classrooms during the Advisory period to observe and participate in P2 discussions led by teachers. The principal also periodically consults with the PLC Leads at the Academic Senate regarding P2’s implementation, collecting feedback to refine and improve our approach.

The Leadership Class: Driving Change

Kastner has established a leadership class dedicated to implementing the P2 throughout the campus. The mission for these students is to exemplify the P2 characteristics of the week, serve as role models, foster a positive environment through acts of kindness, and acknowledge the achievements of their peers. Selected through a rigorous application process, these students were fully briefed on the class’s expectations and goals at the start of the school year, ensuring both they and their parents understood the high standards required. Although initially daunting, every student in the class has risen to meet these expectations, demonstrating remarkable success and growth.

To ensure the leadership students understand character strengths, each week, following the P2 calendar, I teach and guide the class. The instruction happens in a group setting, after which I show them how to convey these lessons to the rest of the student body. We work through the P2 lessons and activities together, engaging in extensive class discussions about the characteristics and their underlying purposes. Although I lead these lessons and discussions, it’s essential for the students to actively participate and respond to questions. This method ensures that our leadership students deeply understand the P2 character strengths before they pass on this knowledge to their peers.

Engaging the Wider Student Body: Captivating Peer-Led Instruction

While the expectation at our school is for teachers to introduce a P2 character strength to their classes each week, we’ve designated one week per month for a school-wide challenge. This special week provides an opportunity for our leadership students to teach the P2 strength to their peers. We’ve observed that students are more engaged and receptive when learning from fellow students, leading to a stronger commitment to the program’s values.

During this week, our leadership students produce a video that illustrates the chosen P2 strength, incorporating examples, participation from various students across campus, and a unique challenge for viewers to complete. These videos, inspired by the format of the P2 curriculum, are a collaborative effort between leadership students, particularly those with a focus on technology and videography. 

Despite the time and effort required to produce these videos, the process fosters teamwork and supports our goal of enhancing campus culture. Once completed, I distribute the videos school-wide via email, encouraging all teachers to use them as a dynamic teaching tool. This not only gives teachers a break from their routine but also captivates students with peer-led instruction. 

Each video concludes with a challenge, varying monthly, with incentives for the class that best meets the challenge, such as creating posters, completing worksheets, or initiating positive email chains. Winners receive rewards, promoting participation and engagement across our school community.

See below for one of the videos produced by the Kastner Intermediate Leadership Class!

Recognizing Peer Achievements

In addition to the monthly challenges, we also emphasize character education through student recognition. Each week begins with me reaching out to teachers to nominate students who exemplify the week’s P2 characteristic. Upon receiving nominations, we use P2 certificate templates to acknowledge these students and prepare goody bags filled with treats like candy, stickers, and other popular items among the students. Leadership students then present these awards in class, celebrating their peers’ achievements in front of the entire class. This method of recognition not only boosts morale but also significantly impacts the school’s culture, as it highlights the importance of character traits directly acknowledged by fellow students.

Impact on Student Leadership Class Participants

We have had numerous discussions with my leadership students regarding how they are impacted – on a daily basis – by completing P2 and being held to higher expectations. Feedback from our students has included:

  • “Being a part of this leadership class has helped me become a better person and learn how to treat others better.” – Student A
  • “After completing the P2 lessons, it has allowed me to look at things from a different perspective and be more helpful to others around campus.” – Student B
  • “Learning about different character traits has helped me apply them in real life and gain a better understanding of how my actions impact others.” – Student C
  • “Being in this class has helped me grow as a person and develop as a stronger leader on campus. I am more confident in myself and speaking in front of others.” – Student D

Impact on Kastner Students and School Community

Implementing P2 with fidelity has had a huge impact on our students and teachers school-wide. Having a specific time cut out of the week for P2 allows us as a school to focus on character strengths and needs that we may not be able to focus on during academic classes. This allows us to shape the minds of our students and focus on the characteristics that help us identify as good humans. We can have a clear expectation of how we treat others on campus and how we want our school to function as a whole. This allows all teachers and staff to speak a common language when utilizing the P2 traits and verbiage when reminding students of expectations.

Additionally, implementing P2 activities has brought a lot of joy and happiness to students and staff. For example, during the P2 week focused on kindness, our leadership students created “Kindness: Take What You Need” boards around campus. The students wrote inspirational and uplifting messages on post-it notes that were available for others to take if needed. This was a great opportunity to reach out to students around campus and keep the student morale positive.

We have also made a staff appreciation board in our faculty lounge that focuses on the P2 Other People Mindset element of identifying and appreciating the good in others. Our students have written intentional letters to every staff member on campus describing why we appreciate them. The letters are pinned to a board in our faculty lounge for the staff to pull off when they see their name. Once a letter has been removed, the students replace that letter with another one for a different staff member. The goal is to bring cheer and positivity to all staff around campus. There have been multiple times when our staff members have thanked the students who wrote their letters or have sent me an email expressing how much it impacted them. This small activity has made a huge impact on others and continues to bless the staff on campus.

May Moua, Ed.D. & Brittany Lee

Dr. May Moua is the principal at Kastner Intermediate School in the Clovis West Area with Clovis Unified School District. Dr. Moua has had 19 years in education and four of those years as a middle school principal. Dr. Moua believes that The Positivity Project has been an impactful partnership focusing our students, staff, and community on fostering a positive character education, resulting in positive community and campus morale. As a former elementary teacher and school counselor, she is committed to sustaining a culture that promotes teamwork, building positive relationships, and innovative instructional practices. Mrs. Brittany Lee is a Resource Specialist Teacher at Kastner Intermediate. For the past seven years in education, her passion for developing and nurturing a positive campus culture for students to be productive citizens and role models within our community has grown with the implementation of The Positivity Project. Mrs. Lee believes that The Positivity Project creates a community where students thrive to reach and maximize their personal best in every aspect they do while on or off campus, representing Kastner Intermediate.