The science is in on New Year’s resolutions. According to a recent article by Bob Sulilvan in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, about half of us will resolve to change something in 2016, and about half of those resolvers will have given up by Valentine’s Day (that makes sense to me, I mean, the chocolate alone!). In spite of those odds, I love a good couple of New Year’s resolutions. Setting meaningful CLASS goals for the rest of your school or program year don’t have to be overwhelming, in fact, the simpler the better!
To avoid that February burn out, “pick small, specific goals and stick to them. As professional athletes often say, take care of the little things and the results will take care of themselves” (Sullivan, 2016). And what better way to make a true impact in the classroom than to pick one goal from each CLASS domain? Even better, how about resolutions that support each other and work together? We know from research that small improvements in CLASS scores can have meaningful impacts on children’s outcomes. So let’s get this New Year’s Resolutions Party started!
The Pre-K CLASS tool has three domains; Emotional Support (ES) which looks at what teachers do to support children’s social and emotional functioning in the classroom; Classroom Organization (CO) looks at how teachers manage children’s time, attention, and behavior in the classroom; and Instructional Support (IS) which looks at how teachers promote higher order thinking skills and language. Let’s set three goals, one per domain. Not just any goals—but goals that support one another across domains:
The Toddler CLASS tool has two domains. Emotional and Behavioral Support (EBS) considers what teachers do to provide social and emotional supports that promote all areas of development and manage children’s behavior, time, and attention in the classroom. And Engaged Support for Learning (ESL) refers to what teachers do to promote cognitive and language development. Again, let's set two goals—one per domain—that support one another across domains.
The Infant CLASS tool has one domain, Responsive Caregiving (RC), which encompasses what teachers do to provide social emotional supports, encourage children’s engagement and development, and how they support language development. Let’s set one goal to support our Infant CLASS efforts.
No matter what age group you work with, I hope these simple goals will support your CLASS journey through 2016, and beyond! Try not to worry about setbacks; making change is always a work in progress. Do be kind to yourself, as “Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before and The Happiness Project, makes the point that people who treat themselves (and others) with sympathy have an easier time picking themselves up after a fall” (Sullivan, 2016).
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.