Teachers advocate new positive-culture program

Jake Sapp | Staff Writer

Over the past few years students and teachers alike have agreed that there are some problems at Mason High School. A group of teachers think they might have found a solution. 

As the school year draws to a close, preparations are already being made for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year at MHS. One of such things is a new positive-culture program designed by teachers in the building who are hoping to reinforce self-reliance and critical thinking in students’ everyday lives. This new program called the “R-Factor” has been in the works behind the scenes, and is now ready to be rolled out to the entire student body next school year. Darin Little, a History teacher at MHS, was one of the initial proponents for the system being introduced to the school. 

“At the beginning of last school year we had our fifth student in five years commit suicide,” Little said. “So we had a big staff meeting where a group of teachers and I started to brainstorm what can we do to try to help you foster those ideas and to try to better and improve the culture at our school. We can’t control how big we are, but we can try to work on improving student teacher relationships. We think we’re a great academic institution but we’re concerned that maybe the relationship piece is a little bit messy.”

After discussing with the other teachers about what the problems they see at the school, Little says that they came to the conclusion that the R-Factor system was the right choice.

“The R-Factor system is essentially a way for students to be able to assess and respond to the world and around them,” Little said. “I feel like our school has an issue in terms of the way that students approach their problems, and in the end that results in all off the stress and anxiety that they find themselves experiencing on a daily basis.”

The system revolves around a thought process called “E+R=O” which is an abbreviation for “Event+Response=Outcome”. The logic behind said thought process comes down to helping students better evaluate how they should react to the things that they can and cannot control.

“We want for students to be able to feel like they are more in control of their own lives,” Little said. “Oftentimes we’ll see students that can’t seem to be able to take a step back and reassess how they are approaching things and adapt. That’s what we as a staff want to change.”

Alongside Mr. Little, many other teachers have been a part of the development of the R-Factor system. Carol Lehman feels as though the simple nature of the new system will help it spread quickly throughout MHS.

“Everybody has both predictable and unpredictable events happen to them at some point in their lives,” Lehman said. “The key part of that is how we respond to said events and learn from them. Having students be able to take a step back and say to themselves ‘what do I need to do in order to optimize this situation’ is really what’s important to us.”

The teachers are still working on ways to present the new program to students, with one of the main ideas being a day-long summer educational program for a select number of student influencers so that they will be able to teach their peers as soon as the school year begins.

“We are (at the moment) in the infancy stages of how we want to roll this whole thing out to students,” Lehman said. “We are throwing a lot of ideas out there during our teacher meetings, such as a summer workshop for student leaders to learn how everything works, and hopefully we can really hit the nail on the head in terms of how we share this with our students.”

Another teacher who has been helping with the development of the R-Factor system is Gina Fox, who says that the ideas within it aren’t going to be things that will solely apply to the High School, but rather the entire school district.

“This isn’t something that we want to limit to just our building,” Fox said. “We have groups of teachers all the way down at the preschool level preparing to share this with their students in different ways. We want this to be something that will spread throughout Mason, inside and outside of school.”

Over the years there have been many other programs with similar goals to the R-Factor system to varied degrees of success. However, Lehman believes that the new culture initiative is unlike anything the school has tried before, and has confidence that it will change MHS for the better.

“In twenty years of teaching, I have been through initiative after initiative, and I’m tired of that,” Lehman said. “Every two to three years we do something else. But with culture and relationship building, that’s something that sticks. If the R-Factor system is the key to doing than, then let’s go for it. We know that not everyone is going to buy into it, but if it helps to save just one life, then it’s worth it.”

Graphic by Riley Johansen.