Kristen Barnett

Eastside Elementary School
Greenbrier, Arkansas

Best Practices

1) Instructional Leadership:  One best practice that has worked well in my school is my role as an instructional leader. Before my assistant principalship, I taught first grade for 17 years in the same district I am currently serving in. Having many years of teaching experience has allowed me to share my knowledge gained through years of service and professional development with so many other educators, ultimately impacting more students in a given year than I was ever able to from the classroom. When moving into this role, I took everything I had learned and used it on a larger scale. I observe teachers and provide feedback on behavior strategies, small group instruction, engagement, and transitions. If I do not have an immediate answer to a problem that I see in the classroom, I research so that I can give a teacher something to try. As an instructional leader, I model lessons for teachers. Sometimes they invite me into their classroom with a topic or lesson they aren’t confident in, and sometimes I ask if they’d mind me teaching so that they can observe. When I model lessons, I ensure the use of SoR, whole-brain teaching, or a hook from Dave Burgess’ Teach Like a Pirate. Usually, these are two areas teachers are most interested in and are excited to try, but they have not seen the strategies in person or don’t know how to get started. I modeled how to mirror words, use the power of three, use callbacks as attention getters, use teach/okay, and dress up to hook learning, just to name a few strategies. Being an instructional leader also means constantly doing my research outside of school. I love phonics, so I am always looking for ways to teach kids how to read. I use social media to find creative ways to implement the Science of Reading as well as math problem-solving. I listen to podcasts on how the brain works to improve the teaching and learning of dyslexic students. Last year, I was able to attend two national conferences, NCSM Leadership in Mathematics and the PLC Summit. By attending and learning as a leader, I led Eastside Elementary School’s conference teams in creating action plans with SMART goals for our school to ensure our learning impacted other educators and thus more students. I was able to bring instructional strategies back to my building to facilitate on a larger scale. One of the most important things I do as an instructional leader is give teachers access to each other. When I am in a classroom and I see great things, I want other teachers to see those great things as well. I have a system of documenting those strengths and collaborating with my principal to protect time to schedule regular peer teacher observations, both at Eastside and at other schools. I truly believe that the answer is in the room, and my perspective allows me to encourage teachers and support my teachers’ growth mindsets in becoming better for kids.

2) Whole Child Initiatives: The second best practice that has worked well in my school is my commitment to maintaining positive relationships and behavioral support. As the assistant principal, I lead the PBIS (positive behavioral interventions and supports) team consisting of grade-level representatives, a specialty teacher, and a counselor. Our team focus is on identifying areas of weakness within the building and layers of support and creating a plan to improve student behavior. Recently our focus has been on Tier 1 support. Based on discipline and observation data, the team identified a need for improvements in Tier 1 behavior expectations and alterations for teachers and students. I intentionally turn the focus of the staff and students back to our collaboratively created behavior expectation matrix. Students earn PRIDE tickets for perseverance, respect, integrity, dependability, and engagement to be entered in a drawing every Friday as a school ritual. If Tier 2 or 3 support is needed, I am the leader of our school’s functional behavior assessment team, which is responsible for collecting data from the parent, teacher, and student. Then we analyze the data, summarize, and create a behavior intervention plan as needed. These students are also monitored through our student intervention team, which I am a member of along with the principal, director of Mental Health and Behavior Services, director of Teaching and Learning, and assistant superintendent. We monitor these students on a three-week rotation, reviewing their academic and behavioral progress. We can evaluate the success of the behavior intervention plan and recommend continuation or another kind of remediation.

After COVID, I noticed there was a substantial shift in student behavior and how many students came to school ready to learn. I adjusted my expectations and used my growth mindset when students were referred for disciplinary support. Sometimes students needed discipline and consequence, but sometimes they just didn’t know how to do school. I had to support teachers in their mindset as well. Together we had to be more intentional with teaching students how to resolve conflict, manage emotions, and do non-preferred tasks when asked. I was able to provide professional development in proactive classroom management and positive behavioral support. As of Oct. 18, 2023, we have 17 office referrals compared to 32 office referrals at this time last year. Through staff email and the principal’s newsletter, I give reminders and recommendations on classroom management strategies and student support. One thing I have tried is to encourage teachers to be mindful of their 4:1 ratio of positive-to-negative feedback. This is particularly crucial for teachers who have students who did not come to school with the tools needed to be ready to learn. I work closely with those students and their teachers to find whatever supports are needed to ensure learning occurs, the student is growing, and their social and emotional needs are met. Thus, my commitment to relationships and MTSS for behavior is a practice that has impacted Eastside Elementary.