As students begin entering the lunchroom at Potter Elementary, the noise begins to elevate; there is activity everywhere, and soon the tables begin to fill up with hungry, loud, energetic students. Once they go through the serving line and get their food and are seated at their assigned tables, a very lucky few of them will feel a gentle tap on their shoulder and they will be invited to join others at the Honors Table by Helen Evans. This is a reward richly treasured by the students.
Evans, a Potter staff member, is the creator and facilitator for the Honors Table, and she issues the invitations to join her at the table for lunch based on students’ mastery of “CHAMPS.” In her words, “Students are chosen to sit at the honors table by exhibiting compliant behavior in the cafeteria for a consistent period of time. I create a table setting that is exquisite in appearance, elegant in nature, and bears an overall excellent ambience.” By comparison, the entire area around the Honors Table bears a striking difference from the rest of the noise, activity, and general behavior in the lunchroom. Students notice this, and beg to be invited to come join the other well-behaved counterparts.
Melanie Hill, Principal of Potter Elementary, approved the initiative in October 2016, and it is a daily event. Evans actually funds the decorations and table settings herself, but the school is very supportive of the overall goal and assists with items whenever possible. According to Evans, “From a quantitative and qualitative perspective, the desired results consist of substantial reductions in negative incidents in the cafeteria.” She adds, “We try to embed a new directive in the mindset of students as to what constitutes appropriate social behaviors when interacting with peers and adults as they prepare for success in life.”
There is a constant flow of requests from students to come to the honors table all day long whether in the cafeteria, in class, or just passing in the walkways. According to the season or time of year, the table may reflect a holiday or celebratory theme, which includes table covers, decorations, doilies (for Valentine’s Day), plastic crystal drinking goblets, plastic silverware that looks like real tableware, and festive paper napkins and plates. In addition, once students have eaten, they are given worksheets, coloring books, or small games and puzzles with which to occupy them for the rest of their lunch break, and often they are allowed to take these items with them when they are dismissed.
It might seem like a small thing, but the smiles on the faces of the children who are lucky enough to be invited to the Honors Table go a long way in helping the faculty and staff bring a calming influence and more positive behavior to the school. Bon appétit, Potter Eagles!View Full Album