As I sat in on an Infant Train-the-Trainer session, participants reflected on their previous experiences with CLASS: learning about it, using it to observe classrooms, supporting teachers, and training others to observe. One participant spoke up: “CLASS is a measure you have to get wrong to get right.”
Ever since, I’ve been thinking about the various ways I’ve heard people get CLASS “wrong” – and more importantly, why getting it wrong is okay, and sometimes even a critical part of the process in becoming a better observer, coach, administrator, or teacher.
“If you give kids too much freedom, there’s going to be chaos!” This is one I’ve heard a lot—so much that I’ve written about it before. The point here is that when educators learn about effective behaviors (as defined by the CLASS), they think about those behaviors in the context of their previous experiences—and then make a judgment about them. Most people with experience teaching or raising children will tell you that structure is important; so the idea that teachers should give children freedom, choices, and autonomy can evoke memories of chaos (that is, until they see how behavior management fits into the picture!). This is a common response, and acknowledging skepticism over how CLASS defines quality is important because it opens up the opportunity to discuss how all the dimensions fit together and challenge pre-existing biases.
“This seems totally subjective.” The idea of assigning a numerical value to the quality of interactions can be a tough pill to swallow. Assigning numbers feels so concrete, while the concept of human interactions feels big and conceptual. But coming to terms with not having a checklist (and learning how to effectively rely on your objective observations and the CLASS manual instead) is an important turning point for every new observer, especially when many are used to other observation tools that are less inferential and just plain easier to “score.”
“I keep kids safe, happy, and engaged. Isn’t that enough?” Not so long ago, many people thought about early childhood classrooms as glorified babysitting: a place to keep children safe, healthy, and entertained while parents when to work. However, we now know that facilitating children’s cognitive growth, language, and literacy skills in the early years is critical for their success. One reason the dimensions in the Instructional Support domain are challenging for teachers is because the notion that children need this level of cognitive challenge and support is relatively new. Acknowledging 1) “This is hard!” and 2) “No one told me this was important before!” indicates an important step toward teacher readiness in making improvements in this area.
“I failed the reliability test!” Failing the CLASS reliability test happens to the best of us. That’s why there are three chances to pass for every new observer. The good news (and yes, I promise there is a silver lining) is that with each new test attempt, your chances of passing the test increase—especially if you take advantage of all the supports we provide and think of each test attempt (preparing for it, taking it, and analyzing your results) as a learning experience.
Do you have any stories to share about “getting it wrong?” How did it turn out? Share your experiences in the comments!
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
As a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) instructor, the sections of any given two-hour session may feel, at times, very goal driven. These sections titled "Know," "See," and "Do” are interconnected. In particular, it is possible to consider "Do" within "Know," and "See." When an instructor supports in-the-moment experiences that connect new knowledge to current practice, they make the CLASS dimensions more relevant to the educators' daily work. But how can we infuse more “Do” into “Know” and “See?” First, let's re-cap what happens in each section.
I have a confession to make. Recently, I used vacation time to stay home and watch Season 6 of The Walking Dead. I know, I know. How could I have let myself miss a whole season? Oh, and I feel a little bad about taking the time off from work too, but this was very nearly an emergency! I mean it was only weeks before Season 7 of the season premiere. I had to do something. Don’t judge.
While I was watching, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu. I felt like I had actually walked through a herd of zombies, but couldn’t quite place why it felt so familiar. Then it hit me—I had unknowingly created zombie-like participants during at least two of my previous CLASS trainings.