One of the first things I saw is what is called “flex seating.” While I’ve seen the big “stability” balls used at desks at schools before, I have not seen it used to the extent it is at Abbett nor given an extensive explanation to why it is used. Mr. Kline explained that children live in a world where adults are making their choices for them all day. With “flex seating,” children get their own choice as to where and how they will sit. Other benefits to “flex seating” include the ability for movement so kids aren’t sedentary as they sit at a traditional chair, plus it brings more of a sense of community to a classroom as they may have the opportunity to interact with a larger number of their classmates than with traditional seating charts. There were several different options for the students and they seemed all have their favorites.
As I visited with Mr. Kline, I was impressed with the staff’s use of brain-based strategies. The first few minutes of every morning in each classroom focuses on students becoming more in tune with their mind, learning how their brain functions and reacts to their choices, and how to make the best decisions throughout one’s day. These social and emotional brain-based strategies are taught and demonstrated throughout the school day. In many situations, we see a bad behavior followed by punishment. But at Abbett, the staff focuses more on what caused the behavior and discussion takes place on what could have been done differently and how the negative behavior can be eliminated.
What impressed me most about Mr. Kline is his approach at being a new principal in a new school. Mr. Kline has been at Abbett just less than a year and a half, coming from Nebraska, and before that, Maplewood. Instead of taking all of his strategies he used at Nebraska and Maplewood and putting them in to place at Abbett, Mr. Kline researched and learned about his student body. He knows that these students are not all the same as the students at his previous school, so he has researched what techniques are best for this student body and puts these strategies in place. He realizes that many of his students at Abbett come to schools with “ACEs” (Adverse Childhood Experiences). He understands that to some of these children, school is their safe haven and he wants to capitalize on that. It is obvious that he wants his students to feel safe at school, to feel part of a community, and to gain an understanding of who they are and how their behavior can be modified to make them contributors to their education as well as their social and emotional well-being. During my visit, it was obvious these children are not only learning about math, language, science, and social studies…they are learning about themselves and how the choices they make affect them.
As Mr. Kline has taught the children at Abbett: Kind Feet, Kind Hands, Kind Words, First Time Every Time…these are his four rules and they seem to be working well!