This month we’d like to take a minute to spotlight one of our awesome Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI) Instructors, Tonya Schadle. Tonya went through the three-day MMCI Instructor training in September 2016 and completed her certification requirements to become a certified MMCI Instructor. She is also a certified Infant CLASS Trainer. In her journey to become even more “CLASSy” than she already is, she agreed to speak to me about her work with CLASS in education.
Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the Early Childhood Education field.
I have been in the field of early childhood education for 23 years beginning as a teacher, then assistant director, and finally director. My director experience includes running both non-profit and for-profit child care centers. The non-profit center settings included a homeless shelter and a domestic violence shelter. For almost eleven years now, I have been working for Devereux Florida with its early childhood programs, completing quality assessments at child care centers and family child care homes across different Early Learning Coalitions. I am currently a Program Manager for one of our Early Childhood programs. The role of this program is to complete CLASS Infant, Toddler, Pre-K observations and facilitate child care provider trainings for the Early Learning Coalition of Seminole.
Tell me about your experience with MMCI and your journey in becoming certified.
I was already a certified CLASS Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K observer and wanted to continue to strengthen and deepen my CLASS knowledge and skills. I started my MMCI instructor certification journey this past September, began facilitating MMCI trainings with two unique teacher cohorts in December, and achieved my MMCI instructor certification in February. I am beginning a third MMCI teacher cohort in April and can’t wait to start my journey with this next group.
What are some of the challenges you faced facilitating CLASS trainings (MMCI) and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was keeping everyone engaged and participating during the sessions after their work day and on Saturdays when it was their normal day off. We had one cohort that met weeknights and the second cohort met on Saturdays. The ELC of Seminole’s Board of Directors donated money so we could purchase snacks for the participants to have during the trainings. The participants appreciated the different snacks and were more alert and engaged when participating in the activities. Boosting their engagement led to great conversations around classroom videos and real-life scenarios.
Can you tell me a success you have seen as a result of MMCI? A specific “ah ha” moment from a teacher?
Before I started my MMCI journey, my “ah ha” CLASS observer moment included being able to distinguish which teachers had participated in MMCI trainings while completing their CLASS observations as evidenced by the positive and effective teacher/child interactions and language taking place in the classrooms. It was so exciting to see teachers facilitate what they learned in their MMCI sessions and integrate new behaviors in their own classrooms. During my MMCI journey, one of my “ah ha” moments included one director's feedback, that after we had discussed Behavior Management the previous week, she heard her staff pointing out children’s positive behaviors in all of the classrooms. The director went on to describe how the children responded to having their positive behaviors acknowledged. It was so awesome to hear that her staff took what they learned in a session and implemented it in the classroom--which resulted in positive reactions from the children. Quality enhancements happen one step at a time.
What is your biggest takeaway from facilitating MMCI?
I had a few takeaways from my MMCI journey. One of my biggest takeaways happened during session 10 (the final session): I facilitated an activity to review the three CLASS domains by having the participants work in three groups, with each group assigned to a domain. The participants had five minutes to draw pictures, symbols, or write phrases to describe dimensions within the domains as if they were teaching it to someone new to CLASS. After the five minutes, the group shared out the information they used to describe their domain. It was empowering to watch the participants work together as a team and create their domain descriptions. They felt comfortable enough to share out the information they had learned. Since it was our last session, the participants expressed how much they were going to miss meeting every week and sharing real life classroom experiences with the group. I am certain that we formed a warm and safe community of learning during those ten sessions.
As coaches, we've all encountered resistant teachers. Resistance to coaching can take many forms. You might encounter a teacher who is direct, making it clear they don't want your help. Or a teacher who is passive, putting off your meetings and recommendations, or acting like they're open to coaching but never actually changing their behavior. While this can be frustrating, you shouldn’t assume the teacher is to blame.
Across the nation, teachers learning about CLASS are asked to narrate their actions and sportscast their children’s experiences in order to support and encourage healthy language development. Hearing this, many teachers may wonder, “Will people think I’m crazy if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for teachers to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.
Hey, sports fans! Don’t you just love watching your favorite players on a big game day, scoring points and making it all look so easy and effortless?
Of course, we know nothing in sports is really effortless, even for gifted athletes with abundant natural talent. One of my favorite quotes comes from NBA All-Star Kevin Durant: “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” Intentional, consistent practice is key to any athlete’s success. But even top athletes rely on the support of a coach to improve their game. Players need coaches to help identify their unique strengths and grow their talents while increasing their skills in areas of challenge. To do all this, coaches spend lots of time observing athletes while they practice—giving real-time feedback based on current efforts, breaking skills down as needed to cultivate mastery, and encouraging players to keep trying in pursuit of their goals.
It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.