Mrs. Kahl's & Regina's Story

Building Trust in the Classroom

Mrs. Kahl has been a middle school teacher her entire career. “I really enjoy teaching middle school – especially the sixth graders. They still need a lot of attention, love and support from the adults in the classroom,” says Kahl. Currently Mrs. Kahl teaches a special education class for 6th graders at an urban middle school in Springfield, Illinois. 

“We have a lot of kids coming from a lot of chaos at home. The parents are working and trying really hard, but a lot of the time, our kids go home to nobody there. I like to keep my classroom structured because of this. When you have chaos at home, you need some place that’s structured.”

One way that Mrs. Kahl creates structure and a caring environment is by practicing and utilizing the Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) model. The BIST Model is a philosophy of teaching that provides educators with a problem-solving model that empowers the student to make choices and manage their own behavior inside and outside of the classroom.

“Using BIST has changed how I interact with my students. I know how to ask questions now that help my students to make the right decision … It has reminded me to not get into a power struggle with kids. It’s really a behavioral shift.”

This past school year, Mrs. Kahl had a 7th grader placed in her room for additional support. Regina was disrespectful to adults, she was getting into fights in the hallways with other students, and had already been suspended numerous times for her behavior. “Placing her in my classroom was a last-ditch effort by the school before transferring her to an alternative school placement, and nobody wanted that to happen.”

At first, Regina was quiet and selected a desk near the back of the classroom. After a few weeks, Regina began to sit closer to Mrs. Kahl’s desk and participate in class.

“At one point, she told me, ‘Mrs. Kahl, I’ve never seen a teacher like you. When your kids are hungry, you feed them. When they need a hug, you give them a hug.’ I was surprised that nobody had ever really done that for her before. I just hadn’t ever thought about it.”

Over time, Regina started doing better in class and being respectful of her peers and teachers. Then, one day she came into class crying. “She came in really upset one day and said that a boy in another class had said something to her and it triggered a memory. She remembered being raped when she was seven years old.”

Mrs. Kahl was shocked at first. “We all had a gut feeling that something was was going on, but she just needed to be with someone she could trust long enough … I knew at that moment that she knew I was a safe person she could trust.”

Mrs. Kahl remembers asking Regina, “Do you want me to stay with you or leave?” when she was getting ready to talk to the school therapist. Part of the BIST model is asking questions to give students a sense of control of the outcome. Regina decided that she wanted Mrs. Kahl there to support her.

“We were able to get a lot of support for her. I’m glad that we were able to do that and recognize her needs. So many people think that BIST is about sit downs and logistics, but it’s about how you interact with the kids and how you talk to them. I think this approach really helped Regina come to me.”

Toward the end of the school year, Regina’s grades began to improve and she even started helping out others in Mrs. Kahl’s class. “She started taking some ownership of school. She’d help me clean the room at the end of the day. I think it made her feel more a part of the school community.”

Regina and Mrs. Kahl have stayed in touch this summer. “I know this summer has been hard for her. There has been a lot of changes, and we’re all going to work hard to make sure she’s okay coming back to school in August." 

Learn More About BIST