Standing in front of a classroom full of administrators and teachers, Jill Darling turned the attention to a white board.

Darling then drew a large circle with five smiling faces inside and one frowning face outside the circle. Darling then asked the educators in the room, who were split into groups of two, to discuss how they would go about creating the same drawing, splitting the work equally.

Once they had formulated a plan and created their renditions, the groups were asked to draw conclusions about the drawing, particularly why the alone face wasn’t happy.

While a variety of answers sprung from the exercise, the consensus answer was clear: the one of the outside didn’t like being alone.

The exercise was just one example of a practical exercise in the R time, or Relationships to improve education, program—a structured program for elementary schools to develop positive relationships between children, create a supportive environment, encourage good manners and cultivate good behavior and respect. Darling, a R time lead trainer, was brought into Ardmore City Schools to talk with a collection of elementary school administrators and teachers and to present the R time program, which the school will be implementing in the fall.

“We’re excited to start this and give our students the tools to succeed not only in school but later in life,” Kim Holland, ACS superintendent, said of the program. Holland has previous experience with R time during his time in Texas and said the program found great success. Holland said R time will be implemented from day one of school, with the hope to teach students about successful relationships and how to handle issues and problems in a proper way.

“It’s changing the heart of a child as much as their behavior,” Holland said.

Darling has been implementing the program into schools since 2008, when she first met the methods English creators. The program aims at creating personal relationships and social connections between groups and classes. Through the practices goals can improve behavior, reduce bullying and stimulate an increased learning environment.

“It all just happens naturally through relationships,” Darling said. “The whole basis is on relationships.”

R time in the class is implemented through a weekly 10 to 15 minute lesson containing 6 core components and steps. Through a scripted, structured class activity students are encouraged to interact with students they may normally not engage with. Through random pairing, students are randomly placed with another student in the class, which over time allows them to work with every student in the class. Students then greet one another formally and participate in an activity, which generally tasks the students with communicating one-on-one and sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other.

Following the activity, the teacher prompts students to reflect on their experience with the entire group, with a mixture of asking students about their own thoughts as well as reciprocating their partners thoughts. At the end of the activity, students thank their partners and return to normal classroom practices.

Through the weekly practices, Darling said students learn to engage with one another and incorporate everyone in the class. Rules, proper manners and politeness are also woven into the practice, potentially influencing a shift in the atmosphere of a school. David Jones, Charles Evans Elementary counselor, said in young students social skills and proper classroom etiquette can be a challenging first lesson. He said the structured, scripted classroom activity will hopefully help reduce time used in the classroom on behavior issues.

“It’s a whole school concept to get that cultural shift,” Darling said. “If you can start to remove some of those barriers to learning they want to come to school and learning is going to take place.

“You’re wanting those concepts to reach beyond those 15 minutes in the classroom. You’re wanting R time to be all the time.”

ACS will have a district-wide training session in August to further discuss implementing the practices into its elementary schools.