Mrs. Ernst's Story

Mrs. Ernst's Story

Using Social Learning to Create Independent Thinkers

Mrs. Ernst has taught kindergarten for 12 years, and 11 of which have been at Cottonwood Point Elementary in Overland Park, Kan. “For many children, kindergarten is their first experience with formal school. Social learning helps my students become independent learners. Clear and consistent expectations provide a learning environment where all my students are successful. These expectations and strategies prepare them for success in the classroom as well as in life.”

Cottonwood Point has been practicing the Behavior Intervention Support Team (BIST) model with the help of consultants with Cornerstones of Care for five years. The BIST model is a teaching philosophy that helps decrease disruptive behavior, increase teaching time, provide relief for parents and facilitate positive changes for youth. “The skills and strategies that are modeled through the BIST philosophy supports students in becoming reflective problem solvers regardless of the ranges of behaviors … We do a lot of modeling and practicing, and really building trust with each other.”

One way that Mrs. Ernst practices the BIST model is by asking her students how they’re feeling throughout the day. “I use a self-management tool that associates a feeling with colors. Each student has their own ring of colors and they can change the color throughout the day to reflect how they feel.”

This concept not only helps her students learn a foundation for building emotional intelligence, but it also helps Mrs. Ernst determine the mood for the class and determine what students may need additional support throughout the day. 

“One day I had one kid who, on every other day, his color was blue, which meant he was feeling excellent. But that morning the color he had selected was orange, which means he was feeling unhappy. It was very unlike him. I asked him why he had selected orange, and he said that when he woke up that morning his dog was really sick. I could tell that he was really concerned. We were able to talk through it and we determined certain things he could do during the day when he started to feel sad. His dog ended up being okay, but being able to know how he was feeling and talk with him about it helped him to share those feelings so we could have a plan in place so he could better focus on the day’s learning.”

Using the BIST model hasn’t just helped Mrs. Ernst’s students. It has also helped their entire school. “Cottonwood Point embraces the BIST philosophy to set common expectations and language to provide consistency across our entire school. Our student’s success comes from the collaborative support and continued commitment every staff member gives each other and all students every day.”

Learn More About BIST