It was a rewarding day as more than 40 BARR coordinators across the country celebrated successes they had this last school year with serving their school communities at the final Professional Learning Community event of the 2020-21 school year.
“I think this harkens back to our BARR philosophy that there is always something to celebrate,” Director of BARR Schools Janice Eldridge exclaimed.
While educators acknowledged the many challenges they faced amongst the pandemic, they commemorated their collaboration, innovation, and perseverance to help meet each student where they were at. As the BARR coordinators shared, they continuously praised their coaches for helping them answer questions, strategize solutions and brainstorm new ideas to keep their team moving forward.
“One of my favorite parts about BARR is the continual opportunities for communication regarding scholars’ strengths and risks. I always say that my favorite kind of meeting is a meeting about the kids, like really getting down to what our kids need and where they are excelling and growing,” said Teacher and BARR Coordinator Krissa Baseggio at North Lawndale College Prep Christiana Campus.
BARR Coordinator and Teacher Kristin Leithiser at Hampden Academy shared how BARR supported their educators in having strength-based conversations about each and every child.
“I feel as if I were a parent listening, I would feel as if the adults that I was trusting really were honoring my child by knowing them as an individual, and I think that would be reassuring to anybody to know that,” said Leithiser. “Even if we’re talking about ways we want to get them on track, it’s with affection and knowledge and I think that’s one of the best things public education can do for a student.”
These sentiments were echoed as BARR Coordinator and Teacher Robyn Bash at Ramona High School shared how BARR helped their team truly know their students.
“Just the improved personal connection to students, especially this year getting in there and really getting to know them and their strengths and what they needed was super cool because I think without BARR this year, there’s no way we would have known our kids as well as we do right now,” said Bash.
While coordinators explained how BARR helped their teams get to know their students better, they took it even one step further. They explained how by using the BARR model, they shifted their conversations to look at students in a whole new way.
“Prior to BARR, when we would often have meetings about students we would focus on deficits and look at what wasn’t happening, and BARR has really helped us to look at the students’ strengths and take it from a very much a strengths-based perspective, and that has completely changed the tone of Block meetings and our teacher-student meetings,” Marshall High School Principal Brian Jones explained.
While Block meetings were mentioned as a helpful support to come up with student interventions, educators also shared how I-Times, 30-minute relationship-building lessons, were pivotal in strengthening relationships with students.
“We also felt like we were building strong communities in our advisories with I-Time activities, we found those to be very helpful and the structures that BARR gave us helped us all be on the same page and be united as a staff and as a school community,” said BARR Coordinator Tricia Krier at Integrated Arts Academy.
At Peter Hobart Elementary, BARR Coordinator Jen Zipf even shared how the model sparked a refreshed outlook on her passion for teaching.
“I’ve told every BARR person that I’ve talked to that to me it really brought life back to me as an educator of almost 20 years and has been one of the things in the recent few years that has really made me have that excitement and glow,” Zipf said.
As the coordinators shared, a prominent theme was revealed. Whether educators were in their first or third year with BARR, they emphasized how it made a noticeably positive impact on their relationships with students.
“I’m really pleased to say that 100% of our BARR teachers in a final end of the year survey said that this was one of the best things that they’ve had in their career. In fact, a staff member who I was just talking to this morning who has taught for about 30 years said that this has been the best year of his career [first year of implementation],” said White Bear Lake Area High School’s BARR Coordinator Joe Held.
A cherished time to reflect, celebrate and inspire as educators enjoy a summer off, and prepare to return to serve students best this fall.