Skip to content

Catching Pupils in the Act of Doing Right

01 Dec 2011

Telok Kurau Primary Catch Right

Catch Them Doing Right helps pupils to develop their behaviour in line with the school's six core values.

We often speak of catching people doing something wrong - but Telok Kurau Primary School has turned this phrase on its head with its Catch Them Doing Right initiative. As the name suggests, the scheme aims to "catch" pupils, teachers, non-teaching staff, parents and even pupils from other schools in the act of doing something right, and recognise these efforts accordingly.

Catch Them Doing Right has been a cornerstone of the Telok Kurau Primary experience since principal, Mr Wilbur Wong, came up with the idea after he joined the school in 2005. As Primary 6 pupil, Shameelia, summed it up, "It makes us feel good and satisfied when we do good deeds. I remember teachers appreciating me with little tokens when I helped to mentor other pupils in Maths. It's not about the tokens, but it's to show that when you are kind and helpful, people will remember you for what you have done."

That said, Catch Them Doing Right is more than a 'Gotcha!' moment for unsuspecting do-gooders. The programme is grounded in the understanding that teachers and pupils can work together - throughout the year and from Pri 1 to Pri 6 - to make school life a kinder, gentler place for all.

Figuring out what's right

But what is the "right" behaviour in the first place? "The 'right' behaviour is different from child to child," explained Mdm Rezina Khan, the Head of Department for citizenship education and character development. "In our student-centric approach, the pupil determines what is the right behaviour based on the school's six core values - responsibility, respect, resilience, integrity, care, harmony - and based on his or her individual needs and situation."

Telok Kurau Primary Catch Right

Every time a pupil is "caught" doing right, he or she receives a card for the value he or she has exhibited.

What this means in practice is this: at the start and middle of each school year, pupils set targets on what kind of "right" behaviour that they want to strive towards. The pupils can share these goals with their parents, who can help to monitor and evaluate their children's progress. Mdm Rezina gives the example of a pupil who wants to buck up on handing in work on time - an act of responsibility both to himself and the teacher. Having set his mind on this, he would, with help from a teacher, "think through how a responsible pupil would hand in work on time and then take small steps towards achieving that right behaviour."

To get the entire school involved in this drive to promote good values, the school encourages its teachers, staff and pupils to share stories of how they were 'caught doing right' doing school assemblies, cultural lessons and other platforms. Teachers and student leaders also go through regular values brainstorming sessions, where they attempt to clarify and review how each of the six core values could translate into desirable behaviour and outcomes, so that they can identify and instil the right habits in the student body.

Rewards aren't everything

It's probably too early for the pupils to understand what is peer review, but that's just what they do when they catch one another doing right. As Pri 6 pupil, Nur Khaliesah Md Kama related, "Our friends reward us with the Catch Them Doing Right cards based on their observation of our good deeds."

Telok Kurau Primary Catch Right

The Catch Them Doing Right programme celebrates the right behaviour and creates a positive environment in the school.

Pupils who get caught once too often get the perk of a mention on a Catch Them Doing Right noticeboard, compliments at school assemblies and a listing in a monthly Roll of Honour. Parents also receive postcards that inform them about their children doing "right" and on their child's behaviour. Teachers who chalk up a reputation for what's right are awarded certificates on Teachers' Day, while parents who have contributed to a culture of care and support are also feted during prize-giving days.

Telok Kurau Primary Catch Right

Pupils who do the "right" thing are recognised on the school's Roll of Honour board.

Mdm Rezina further explained that at inter-school tournaments and competitions, the pupils are encouraged to "discuss which pupil from the opposing school team has best demonstrated the right behaviour based on the six core values." The selected pupil then receives a Catch Them Doing Right medal. On this, Nur Khaliesah remarked, "Even when the opponents do not win, the medal we present to them will mean more than just participating to win. It's about how we appreciate the values of respect and resilience in sports when they display true sportsmanship."

To sum it up, Mdm Rezina stated, "While the rewards and recognition are small, it helps to build up a positive environment and reinforces a culture where the right behaviour is celebrated. Through this process, we want to move to a state where the motivation becomes intrinsic."

Judging from the experience of Ng Linghui, that seems to be taking root indeed. "It's important to start from young so that it becomes a habit," said the Pri 6 pupil. "Catch Them Doing Right encourages everyone to be better, to do good deeds throughout their lives."