Staying Connected to Students During Remote Teaching

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Many school districts are choosing to go with the hybrid teaching system this fall: half in-classroom learning and half remote learning. Depending on how things go, there is a possibility of going back to permanent remote teaching. Regardless of how much remote teaching your district will be doing, it’s still a good idea to try to explore different ways to connect with your students through the computer screen.

Here are some ways to accomplish just that during this next school-year:

  • Provide your students with “office hours” where they can contact you over phone or Zoom call to get help.
  • Craft a gift that you can give to your students to symbolize being together (example: painting rocks, sewing dolls, etc).
  • Use programs like Flipgrid for reading responses or personal videos.
  • Think of ways to allow your students to connect to each other. (Flipgrid is great for this).
  • Send your students a physical letter or card.
  • Have a slumber party night on Zoom where you read bedtime stories.
  • Have a backyard science project day.
  • Mail them a book, or personally drop it off in their mailboxes. Then you can have a virtual book club about the book.
  • Create a surprise yard sign and put it in their yards. (Birthdays would be a great time for this).
  • Showcase students’ birthday.
  • Have a Dress Up Day, or Spirit Week during online class sessions. 
  • Go on a virtual field trip.
  • Ask your students to give virtual house tours to showcase their favorite parts of their house.
  • Use Google Forms for daily check-ins.
  • Share strategies on how you’re being organized and taking care of yourself mentally.
  • Plan a way to eat lunch with your students every once in a while.
  • Maintain some of their favorite routines from being in the classroom.

If you’re looking for a program to help you with creating lessons in Social-Emotional Learning, our program Onspire C3 can help with that. With this program, you can ask your students to complete the lessons on their own, have staff lead C3 lessons, or blend the program with staff instruction and self-directed learning. We would love to help you bring Onspire into your curriculum, so if you are interested, contact us to schedule a free demo for you and your team.

Self-Care Tips for Teachers

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Let’s be real: it takes a lot of mental and physical energy to be a teacher. Especially during a time like now when everything is shifting from on-site teaching to remote teaching. When you’re an educator self-care is always important because if you’re taking care of yourself, you’re taking care of your students too.

If you neglect to take care of yourself, you can be at risk of experiencing burnout. Practicing self care is also an excellent way to set an example to your students. It’s very important to try to balance your work and leisure so that you can properly enjoy both. Here are some self-care tips for any teachers out there. 

Managing Productivity

Sometimes when we are writing up to-do lists, we can easily get carried away. Evaluating how you are managing your time is one way to take care of yourself. Look at your to-do list. Are there tasks you only want to do rather than need to do? When you overload yourself with tasks, it can be easy to get flustered and it’s a sure way to experience burnout. 

It can also be beneficial to your time-management to set boundaries with students and their families. In an ideal world, we could help others any time they need. But unfortunately, working under that mindset can be detrimental to your mental health. Learn how to say no, or redirect people to other helpful resources.

Taking a Break From Productivity

While on the topic of managing your time, don’t forget to give yourself time to not work. Socializing with loved ones or peers is an excellent way to unwind and rejuvenate yourself. However, it can be hard to unwind if you’re going to just discuss work in your freetime. Try to designate time when you and your coworkers can connect and talk about topics unrelated to work. 

Giving yourself enough time to relax and re-energize is crucial to avoiding burnout and maintaining self-care.

Practicing Productivity

Looking at positive messages or quotes can help if you’re having a stressful or overwhelming day. Do your students or their families write you encouraging notes or feedback? Collect them and put them somewhere special so you can look back at them on a rainy day.

You can also collect your favorite motivational, inspiring, and motivational quotes. Create a small project for you and your students where you all share your favorite positive quotes.

Monitoring & Combating Stress Levels

Lastly, take note of your stress symptoms so you can know what you can handle and when you are the most stressed. Try to maintain a self-care routine of activities that relax and calm you. For example, you can try to read outside in your backyard surrounded by nature every weekend (or any activity that you find to be a stress reliever).

Conclusion

There is no set way to practice self-care. Everyone copes with stress differently. Find your stress relievers, manage your time as best as you can, and most importantly, be forgiving to yourself. Practicing these behaviors will make it easier for you to influence your students to do the same.

Teacher Spotlight: Nikki Silva

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It takes a special person to be a teacher, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019-2020 school year tested teachers all over the world on their adaptability skills. It may be summer, but we still feel that a teacher’s hard work should be noticed. 

Meet Nikki Silva, 3rd grade teacher at Carteret School District in Carteret, New Jersey. Nikki is an upbeat and passionate person who hopes to spread this behavior to her students. As an avid reader and writer, Nikki dreams that one day in the future she can publish a children’s book that encourages them to be who they are. 

The desire to encourage children follows her in the classroom, too. One of her favorite things about teaching is that she’s able to impact the future by making a difference in students’ lives. To her, nothing feels better than watching concepts click together in her students’ heads, giving them that “Aha!” moment.

When it comes to reinforcing life skills like kindness and empathy, Nikki says “it needs to be sprinkled throughout the school year.” She recommends that other teachers find it in everyday life and bring it to the lesson, rather than trying to plan lessons for the topic. 

“Not everyone has those cheerleaders in their lives to teach them that kindness, empathy, and friendship is important. They’re in school for most of the day, so we have to teach them to be the best little humans,” Nikki said. 

One example she thought of was when her class was reading a book called “An Extra Yarn.” As they read through the book, she pointed out occurrences of kindness throughout the story. She’ll also tie in other current events to showcase the kindness and empathy that can be taken from the stories.

Outside of small comments during every lesson, she tries to teach her students that not everything in life is perfect, but it’s important to try to make the best of every situation. Nikki and her students will have morning meetings where they talk about how even the smallest gestures can improve someone’s day. If she’s having a rough morning, she’ll let them know, but also tell them that seeing them made her day better. 

Nikki also feels it’s important to praise her students when they naturally perform kind actions. She tries to teach them that not everyone is good at everything. For example, she has “tech students” that will help other students with connectivity issues.

“Some students are just spirited that way in which they’re helpers and want to do it themselves, which encourages other classmates,” she said. 

They also have a “secret” gift they give to other students outside of their classroom, called kindness tickets. Whenever her students see someone outside of their class doing a kind deed, they give out kindness tickets to reward others for their actions.

Like many teachers, the COVID-19 pandemic has made Nikki’s way of teaching change. She’s learned to try new things, such as even more programs and technology. They used FlipGrid, Kahoot, and participated in virtual field trips to make learning remotely more exciting. She and her students still held morning meetings over Zoom, but it wasn’t exactly the same because the personal aspects were missing. Her solution was to split her students off into smaller groups so there was a little bit of closeness. 

She has definitely missed hugging her students and doing other hands-on activities with them. Despite the change to remote learning, she still feels they maintained their connection. She drove by their houses to see them, and when she did so she gave each student a rock to paint. This rock signifies that they may be separate now, but they will always be part of her third grade family. 

When Nikki isn’t teaching her students, or working on her novel, she’s spending time with her daughters. Keep an eye out in the future, and maybe someday you’ll see Nikki’s novel out there in the world!


Do you know a teacher who you think should be featured? Send us a message on Facebook!

Don’t Slip Down That Slide! How to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

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Summertime is always an exciting time for kids. It’s a break from that regular school routine and time to focus on fun! Except not too much fun. While it’s important to give our children the break so they can recharge and truly retain information, there’s a phenomenon called “summer learning loss” (also called the “summer slide”). Summer learning loss happens when children slowly start to forget the things they’ve learned in the previous school months.

With the shakeup of the 2019-2020 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this issue may be even more prevalent. The best way to prevent your children from slipping down that summer slide is to keep the wheels in their mind turning even during the summer. According to Oxford Learning, it only takes two to three hours of learning per week to prevent learning loss. But how should you integrate this learning? Let’s discuss fun ways you can slow the loss of knowledge this summer.

Have an at-home book club

Reading is important, and one of the best ways to keep your brain sharp. The best thing about reading is that your children can pick from a variety of genres to pique their interest. You can make it a bonding experience for the whole family by setting up a book club, where each family member has to read a book of their choice and report later to discuss.

Encourage journaling or other forms of writing

Writing is something that can be a struggle for children to get into outside of the classroom. It may be helpful to encourage your children to write for a couple minutes everyday. Whether they write something fictional, or journal about what they did today, it will help them enhance their writing skills. For older kids, you can look up writing prompts online to really hone in on their skills and creativity.

Assign a day of the week for your kids to join you in the kitchen

Cooking can really help your children grasp scientific and mathematical concepts. Plus, your children will feel grown-up and proud of themselves if they help you make dinner!

For example, you can integrate math lessons into measuring for recipes. The reactions that occur during the baking process can help your children learn science. Put on your aprons and have some fun!

Have a fun (but educational) family game night

Friday Night Game Night is a classic way to bond with your family, but you can have an educational spin too! Word games like Scrabble and Boggle enhance your children’s verbal skills and spelling, but there are some other games you might not realize can help your kids learn. For example, Uno helps younger kids get a handle on their colors and numbers, but any age can benefit from the thinking skills Uno provides. Connect-4 provides your children with thinking skills as well; they have to think ahead to pull off the win. Monopoly or Life can help them with math and money management skills.

Tour a museum or zoo virtually

Ideally, you would attend a zoo or museum physically to reap the full benefits via tour guides, but given the circumstances, virtual tours do the trick, too! Not only can you virtually tour museums and zoos, but you can also watch wildlife live feeds and give your children facts on the animal as you’re watching.

Here are some resources for other virtual field trips:

Ask your children to complete projects

This is a great option for older kids and teens. There are some great options that we probably all have done in school: making a popsicle bridge, creating a functioning roller coaster, or trying to create the fastest paper airplane. You can find other DIY project ideas for the family here.

Embrace your children’s interests

Summer can be a great time to really hone in on an interest. If you notice your children take a liking to one project over another, embrace that! This is especially important for teens who may still be unsure about what direction to go after high school.

Conclusion

The best thing to keep in mind is what your children are liking to do and what they’re struggling at. During the summer you can try to improve a subject that was a struggle last school year. Don’t forget that summer learning loss is an issue you want to avoid, but you don’t want to overwhelm your children with too much information.

Educating your children by playing games, doing projects, and going on tours is the perfect chance for bonding. And plus, you’re never too old to learn! Parents, you might learn something yourself. 


If you’re a parent and you need some assistance with the emotional learning side of things, our Onspire Learning Management program may be a solution for you. Onspire has three different paths of curriculum: PD3: Comprehensive, Efficient, and Accountable, C3: Civility, Compassion, and Cultural, and R3: Resolve, Remediate, Restore. Visit the links provided to learn more!

Teacher Spotlight: Brooke Mischler

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Many people become teachers so that they can not only teach students basic learning skills, but also teach them behavioral skills and improve the world as well. This is no exception for Brooke Mischler. Brooke is an elementary life skills teacher at Somerset Area School District in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Her passion for teaching comes from the love of watching her students grow. 

Maple Ridge Elementary School, where Brooke teaches, has a program to show the importance of positive behavior. The program highlights positive characteristics and rewards students for showing them. Inside Brooke’s classroom is a bucket with the purpose of being filled with poufs. It gets filled with poufs when kindness is seen in the classroom. Once the bucket is full, the classroom has a pizza party to reward the students for their actions.

The students are also taught social and emotional lessons through literature. It’s not a curriculum, but rather literature-based lessons with examples.

“I try very hard to practice what I preach,” Brooke said about how she lives by example. Even when she is having a bad day, she tries to be upbeat to exemplify the characteristics that she teaches to her students.

“Teachers must be models of kindness, especially at elementary level. Teach kindness explicitly. It takes a community of examples to make it a part of their being. It starts with us,” Brooke said.

However, she did add that teaching kindness to children should happen everywhere they go.

As for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and online teaching, Brooke had to adjust the ways she communicated with parents and incorporate new technology into her teaching. She began writing her students letters, which is something she traditionally wouldn’t do since she sees them almost daily in normal circumstances. 

The Somerset Area School District used instructional packets with YouTube videos. With the use of bi-weekly Zoom calls, the teachers were reading books, teaching skills, and generally trying to keep their students connected.

When she’s not teaching, Brooke enjoys hiking, camping, group meditation, and attending concerts.

How Our Onspire Software Can Help You With Teaching Online Right Now

Everyone can do with a bit of certainty right now. The conditions we find ourselves in are complicated, and even that is an understatement. With so many aspects of daily life constantly in flux, something simple is long overdue. Our Onspire software aims to make online teaching easy in a time that is anything but. 

COVID-19 has brought on change quicker than most would have liked. Schools have closed their doors and moved online, which has, in some cases, caused more confusion than progress. Fickle Internet connections, missed emails, and misinterpreted instructions are hurdles students, teachers, and staff must face every day. The conversion of lesson plans to virtual instruction is causing grief to teachers across the nation. Parents of students are worried about keeping in contact with schools to ensure that their child stays on the right track in completing the current academic year. 

Onspire is an inspired online learning program designed to make virtual education simple and accessible for students, teachers and administrators. It fuses expert-developed content with customized user-developed content to provide a unique and versatile online learning experience, all while being easy to manage. 

Teachers everywhere face the challenge of having to adjust all of their teaching online.

There are three modules that make up the Onspire software: PD3, C3, and R3. The PD3 program was created to be comprehensive, efficient, and accountable. It is designed to alleviate the administrative burdens related to the delivery and management of a district’s professional development programs. PD3 provides a variety of professional development courses in the form of instructional videos and slideshows with narration. The assessments included are randomized to ensure staff fidelity, and a PDF certificate of completion helps foster accountability of staff and administrators. 

The C3 program is inspired by 3 C’s in particular: civility, compassion, and culture. Students receive social-emotional learning through exercises that focus on identifying emotions and behaviors. Children ages K-8 are able to learn about topics that fall within the categories of the three C’s. Civility lessons teach students how to interact with the world around them. Compassion lessons help them understand their own emotions as well as the feelings of others, and culture lessons include topics dealing with diversity. 

R3 is meant to resolve, remediate, and restore. Students may sometimes exhibit problematic behaviors, and when those arise, they need remedial social-emotional lessons. Teachers, staff, and administrators, especially in recent times, may not have the time available to offer adequate emotional support. R3 is self-directed. It utilizes videos and interactive lessons with cognitive therapy techniques to help students understand what they may have done rather than simply telling them they were wrong. 

All of Onspire’s programs are secure and easy to use as well as customizable to fit every school’s unique needs. Subscriptions include a custom course creator to ease the burden of lesson planning. Teachers finding themselves at a loss for what to do with their plans for the rest of the semester can rest assured that Onspire will serve as a helpful resource in scheduling the remainder of the year’s course material. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic enforcing social distancing and online learning, it is imperative now more than ever that schools are able to adapt to meet the needs of its students, teachers, staff, and parents. Communication is one of the pillars of Onspire. It allows teachers to easily share content with the district and students’ parents, which is a key component in achieving truly successful distance education. Additionally, Onspire has options for custom remote programs specifically for parents. 

Adaptation and innovation is what Onspire is all about, and it’s what will make the difference when working together toward an inclusive and efficient learning environment. 

Rainy Day Blues: Helping Kids Manage Their Feelings

Weathering the April showers isn’t always easy, even with the promise of the beautiful flowers they’ll bring. In this ever-changing world, it isn’t enough to rely on personal experiences when helping today’s youth manage their emotions. To truly help the kids you care about, you’ll need to see things as they do and develop an understanding of the fast-paced, interactive, and sometimes invasive nature of the universe they live in. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is like one big, rainy day. Social distancing keeps them away from their friends and the outlets they find away from home, though for children and teens today, engagement with the outside world never really ends. They are constantly connected with their friends, peers, and in some cases, their bullies. There is no “taking a break” from social interaction. It follows them everywhere they go, so long as there is a phone in their pocket.

Simply cutting off access to their devices will do little more than build resentment and distrust between you and your child, but if that’s the case, how is one supposed to help? 

According to kidshelpline.com, there are a number of ways to help your child learn how to express and cope with their emotions, but the first step is helping them identify their feelings. 

“Kids who are able to identify, understand, express and manage a wide range of feelings experience long term benefits to their mental health and wellbeing.”

Successfully identifying and expressing emotions helps children develop important social skills and leads to better performance in school, relationships, and mental wellbeing. It is imperative that children feel that they can talk to you about what they are feeling, as they may not always have the right words to describe their emotions. Figuring it out together can help them recognize the feeling in the future. 

Once they have a handle on their feelings, there are a variety of coping strategies you can help them implement to deal with their emotions. Creative outlets such as drawing, painting, or journaling are often recommended as a way to encourage self-expression. Keeping a diary or journal is an excellent way for children to vent their feelings in a way that feels safe and personal. Drawing and painting allow children to portray their thoughts and concentrate on a project, which promotes creativity, focus, and sometimes, relaxation. 

Our Onspire program can also serve as a cure to those rainy-day blues. It gives parents access to supplemental content to fill their time while reinforcing literacy skills and social-emotional learning. Children have an outlet to invest their time and energy in while also reaping educational benefits.

Now that the weather is warming up, perhaps your child would like to go outside and play. Sports are another highly recommended activity for children to manage their emotions. Rigorous physical activity promotes the production of endorphins, and is a great way to “blow off steam.” 

An article from harmonylearning.com said, “At this time, it’s good for children to have existing creative outlets that they’re comfortable and familiar with.  There will be times when they seek solace in their artwork, dance, or music as a means of dealing with their problems.”

Establishing effective, healthy coping mechanisms in children will provide them with sources of comfort and clarity that last a lifetime. While building trust between yourself and your child is a key component in getting them to be more open with their feelings, it is also beneficial for them to find an outlet they can turn to.  A combination of conversation and independent coping will help the kids you care about keep their cool in today’s nonstop world.

If you have any questions on building these skills in children, please do not hesitate to reach out. Through our Onspire software, both parents and teachers can utilize pre-made literacy-based social and emotional development courses or develop your own. Learn more and request a free trial here: https://onspirelearning.hibster.com.

Teacher Spotlight: Renee Saylor

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During this stressful time for many teachers, we want to show our appreciation for them. Last month, we showcased a teacher on Facebook, and we want to dedicate a blog post to her, too.

Meet Renee Saylor, a 12th grade teacher at North Star High School in Boswell, Pennsylvania. Renee is passionate about teaching because of the relationships she can develop with her students. Since she teaches seniors, she enjoys giving them the skills and knowledge to help prepare them for the world. Renee tries to relate many of her lessons to current events and adjusts her curriculum to what they want to know.

She also incorporates team-building activities and encourages her students to make eye contact and shake hands with their partner. When her students are reviewing each other’s writing, they use a “1 glow-up, 1 grow-up” system, which means they’ll say one thing they like about the piece and one thing that needs improvement.

During a unit she had taught on relationships, she found an article that said today’s teens are thought to be the loneliest generation yet. She asked them to write their thoughts on it and share it with the class. She wanted everyone to know that we all get lonely sometimes, so it’s important to remember that before you think. She could tell many of them were getting emotional on the topic and self-reflecting.

At the back of Renee’s classroom, she has a “Senior Brag Board.” Its purpose is for her students to shout each other out. Renee says all kinds of encouragement and praise are on the board: from Fortnite wins, to college acceptances and big-game scores.

One of the biggest ways Renee tries to relate and empathize with her students is by being as authentic as possible. She holds one-on-one conferences with her students to keep up with their lives and see if they’re anything going on. She wants her students to know that teachers are more than just figure-heads at the front of the room; they’re real people, too. She apologizes when she makes mistakes and participates in writing activities and shares what she wrote. This is how she tries to lead by example.

When Renee isn’t teaching, she enjoys exercising, crossfit, and teaching yoga.

How Teaching Inclusivity Can Help Children

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In recent years, the importance of inclusivity has been showcased in our media via television, movies, and more. More people are realizing how important it is to include all types of people in all aspects of life.

We may not realize it, but inclusivity matters even in early childhood. Think of the trope in movies where a student is left out of games at recess, or has nowhere to sit at lunch. While movies often use fiction and fantasy to make themselves more entertaining, that’s one trope that is unfortunately true.

When a student is excluded by their peers, this is know as relational aggression (or social bullying). Many parents may not treat this form of bullying as seriously as it needs to be treated. It seems as if the solution is simple: just find someone else to talk to. Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way.

Social bullying is something that children can quickly internalize and start to blame themselves for. If the negative feelings from social bullying aren’t worked through, children could start to develop feelings of self-hatred and bitterness towards others, which could result in dangerous consequences.

So what can be done to prevent social bullying? In this blog post, we’ll be discussing how parents can help teach their children to include others and make everyone they meet feel welcome and loved

Promote individuality in kids and teens

Not only do you want to encourage your kids and teenagers to be an individual themselves, but you also want to encourage them to accept individuality in other people. When children recognize that everyone has their quirks and values, they’ll be more accepting of others and maybe even encourage other kids to be themselves.

Examine your own behavior

It’s common knowledge that kids learn from what they see around them. This is why it’s so important to make sure that you’re also behaving appropriately in front of them. Think about your own actions towards others in front of children. Are you setting a good example for them?

Encourage your kids to reach out to others and have a diverse group

When you’re young, it can be easy to be caught up in your one singular set of friends. Encourage your children to reach out to anyone who seems like they need support. Do they see a peer doing things alone often? Suggest to your kids that they should check in and see if an isolated person is okay.

Another good thing to encourage in your children is to befriend others who are different from them. When you have more diversity and differences in a group, it’s more likely for them to be accepting of others.

Teach your children boundaries

While including others is important, it’s also important that your children are maintaining healthy relationships with others. Make sure to teach them that it’s okay to let someone go if they’re toxic or making them feel uncomfortable. They should also know that someone else’s mean behavior does not mean they should reciprocate. Discourage jokes that may come off as “too far” or inappropriate. They should know about respecting others, but also making sure they’re respected themselves.

Communicate and empathize

Teaching your children about communication and empathy may be one of the biggest tips to take from. When children know how important it is to communicate, they will be more likely to speak up for themselves and others.

Kindness is infectious; one kind act can lead someone else to commit their own kind act.


We’re hoping that steps like these can help children become more empathetic, kind, and understanding towards others. Bullying has been around for a long time, and we’re hoping someday it can be almost entirely eliminated.

Do you have any advise on teaching children about inclusivity? How do you prevent social bullying with your family? We’d love to hear from you.

HIBster is helping Pennsylvania combat bullying

Pennsylvania state representative (D-Cambria) Frank Burns is serious about confronting bullying.

As part of a bold plan to reduce harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents, he’s tapped HIBster to help school districts address the issue.

Penn Cambria School District will serve as the first district to pilot HIBster under Burns’ redoubled efforts.

“Penn Cambria School District is honored to have this opportunity to partner with Representative Burns and HIBster to monitor, track and identify acts of bullying districtwide and make our Penn Cambria community safer for all students,” Penn Cambria Superintendent William Marshall said.

Burns’ aggressive approach includes the introduction of an Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights — which will more clearly define a bullying incident — as well as possible fines and community service for the parents of bullies.

Educational Development Software’s Director of Education Jim Budzilek sat down with WJAC news to discuss HIBster’s effectiveness in New Jersey and how it will translate to Pennsylvania. (Watch the video here)

“What is started off with, New Jersey has a law that all schools have to record incidents and bullying from administration all the way up to the school board,” Budzilek said. “That’s not yet in Pennsylvania. However, we believe with the success we’ve had with HIBster in New Jersey that we need to get this tool to schools in Pennsylvania.”

Budzilek said the program allows victims or witnesses of bullying to anonymously submit a report that will work its way through the school’s administration to the superintendent. “There was one school district, they had a 50 percent drop in two years of incidents of bullying,” Budzilek said.

HIBster will make it much easier to report — even anonymously — suspected instances of bullying. And once the incident is reported, the district is able to track, monitor and act on those reports in a much more coordinated way.

Marshall spoke highly of HIBster to the Altoona Mirror.

“We have five buildings. In the past, none of that discipline information carried over from year to year and from building to building. Now for example, when all fourth-graders move to the middle school, their discipline information carries over,” he said.

Marshall foresees the reports generated by the program will help eliminate the “he-said, she-said” that makes bullying murky.

“We can really identify students who are victims and actors and hotspots where bullying happens,” he said. “The tough thing with bullying is bullies are good at hiding it. But if we have a report showing a student is accused three times in semester, that is a good indication, and the student is aware that we are aware of it.”