There’s a new philosophy at work at Adrian Burnett Elementary School, and it’s all about reinforcing students’ good behavior, plus rewarding teachers for going the extra mile.
Students at Adrian Burnett are awarded Burnett Bucks for positive behavior in the school’s four areas of focus this year: hallways, bathrooms, playground and cafeteria. Every Friday, students who have earned enough Burnett Bucks get a special reward, like popsicles on the playground or a hat day. At the end of each nine weeks, there will be a school-wide celebration for Burnett Bucks winners chosen by a school-wide poll, plus drawings every Friday for three or five Burnett Bucks winners to get a special treat. End-of-semester rewards are also in the works.
On top of that, teachers at Adrian Burnett earn Talon Tickets for putting in extra effort to help out around the school. Those are put into a prize drawing every Friday, and the winner gets a prize tailored just for that teacher.
Carla Kirkpatrick, behavior interventionist at Adrian Burnett, said this system of rewards goes hand-in-hand with the new Positive Behavior Intervention Support discipline structure the school implemented this year. She said that PBIS is not mandated countywide yet, but there is a push towards moving all Knox County elementary and middle schools to the system in coming years.
The concept is simple. Instead of just punishing bad behavior, reward the good, too, and set up some positive peer pressure along the way. For kids who still struggle with behavior, instead of putting them in detention or suspending them from school, Kirkpatrick steps in.
“My goal is to go into their classrooms and hang out in there and help give strategies to students in the classroom,” she said. “So all the learning takes place in the classroom.”
That way, other students benefit from Kirkpatrick’s guidance, not just the student who misbehaved. And the misbehaving student isn’t missing valuable learning time.
Burnett Bucks support this structure by setting behavior goals for the school, and the system is paying off.
Kids started receiving Burnett Bucks during the first week of school, a four-day week. More than 7,000 bucks were awarded that week.
“It was unbelievable,” said Kirkpatrick. “It was around 2,000 per day. On average, each student was positively affirmed four times per day.”
The next week, a regular five-day week, teachers gave out almost 9,000 bucks.
“Anytime you reward positive behavior anywhere, it’s a trickle effect,” said Kirkpatrick. “If students are quiet in the hallways, there’s more learning in the classrooms. If the students know the expectations for behavior are high, they also know the expectations for learning are high.”
As for the Talon Tickets for the teachers, Kirkpatrick said the Burnett Bucks program is extra work, so it made sense to reward the teachers, too.
“We’re acknowledging positive behavior on the educators’ part, too,” she said. “And everybody likes a treat.”