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Oakland School Burckhalter Elementary “Burckhalter Bucks”Effort Works – Here’s Why

Oakland School Burckhalter Elementary “Burckhalter Bucks”Effort Works - Here's Why 1

Burckhalter Elementary Holds Students Accountable for Adhering to School’s Core Values, Rewarding Good Behavior with “Burckhalter Bucks”Effort Reflects Important Work at Schools Across District
Oakland – As any parent knows, getting children to do what you want them to do can be challenging. Sometimes, positive reinforcement in the form of rewards will do the trick. That’s what the adults at Burckhalter Elementary have found with their system of “Burckhalter Bucks.”

Students at Burckhalter are held to high standards which include following and modeling the school’s core values, which are “Be Safe,” “Be Respectful,” and “Be Responsible.” “We started that campaign the first week of school,” said Principal Carin Geathers. “And what we do is every chance we get when we see the students doing that, lining up safely, walking in the hall safely, helping each other on the playground, that kind of stuff, we give them a Burckhalter Buck.”

Oakland School Burckhalter Elementary “Burckhalter Bucks”Effort Works - Here's Why 2At the end of each week, students can cash in their bucks for treats and school supplies. Second grade teacher, Yvonne Paige (pictured below in class) is known as one of the adults who uses the Burckhalter Bucks to reward students the most. “When they are not watching me watch them, and are just doing what is expected of them, that is, the homework habits in the classroom, the rules in the classroom, school rules, and just helping out without me saying, ‘oh, go over and help your friend,’ they’ll go help without me asking,” she explained.

In the short term, this is about rewarding good behavior, but over the course of a school year and beyond, this kind of reinforcement is also about the long-term gains of Social Emotional Learning or SEL, and leads students to default to this kind of positive behavior. “It pays dividends, and it is instruction,” said Principal Geathers. “Because it is us teaching and modeling what it is that we want to see. We can’t control pretty much anything once the kids leave us, but when they come in, we want them to feel part of a community.”

And to be part of any community, you have to adhere to the rules and norms of that community. This method of teaching is part of what’s called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS, and schools across the District use it in one form or another to ensure that all students learn appropriate behavior and know early what to avoid before unwanted behaviors take hold.

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Another method that Burckhalter uses to teach and model good behavior is the creation of Junior Coaches, who are 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who help on the yard by getting their classmates involved in activities. The students are voted by their peers to take on the roles. “During recess time, they run the games, and the adults are basically monitoring them,” said Principal Geathers. “They’ll encourage their classmates and other students to play the games, and they’ll settle the small conflicts such as, ‘no, we’ve got a line, you have to go to the end of the line.’ They also learn leadership skills, because now other students come to them and say, ‘hey, this time I want to play that game’ or ‘can you show me some new games?’”

Teaching SEL is about ensuring that students have the tools necessary to help them succeed in life, which isn’t just the knowledge they gain by learning math, history and science. It’s about learning how to constructively resolve conflict, make responsible decisions, manage their emotions, maintain supportive relationships, feel and show empathy for others, and achieve personal and collective goals.

Oakland School Burckhalter Elementary “Burckhalter Bucks”Effort Works - Here's Why 4
Oakland School Burckhalter Elementary “Burckhalter Bucks”Effort Works - Here's Why 5
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“There are a lot of stressors on students in today’s world, and students enter school with all kinds of demands on them that require good social emotional skills,” said Barb McClung, OUSD’s Director of Behavioral Health. “If they don’t have these skills, it can interfere with their ability to access instruction. We know coping skills are critical, and these days we have less direct interaction with others, and instead far more exposure to social media. Combine all that with our living during a global pandemic, and students have to adjust often and quickly to changing, unpredictable circumstances. Research shows that students who have these social emotional skills do better academically. We want every OUSD student to have all the tools they need to succeed in school and in life.”

Post based on press release from OUSD to ZENNIE62MEDIA, Inc.

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