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I Survived a Challenging CLASS Training Experience

20 Apr 2017 by Sherilyn Crump

We specialists, MMCI instructors, and trainers are often over-the-top enthusiastic about CLASS, and solid in our belief that CLASS-based interactions truly impact student outcomes. This enthusiasm may lead to being taken aback when we are sent to train for programs that are less than enthusiastic about spending the next two to three days in a training they may not welcome with open arms. This very situation happened to me last year.

I arrived at a program, my usual excited self, ready to begin an Infant/Toddler combined Observation training, only to discover that the group had no intention of actually testing to become reliable observers.

Instead, the reason for the training was to prepare for an evaluation, in which CLASS was the chosen quality measure within a local rating system. On the first day of the training it was made clear this particular group felt as though CLASS “went against” their adopted curriculum approach, and (for several in the group) even against their personal belief systems. It felt like I was presented a brick wall before I had even had a chance to get started!

What I wish I could tell you is, that after three days of training, I had totally turned around the groups’ resistance to CLASS. It didn’t quite go down like that. Each day presented challenges that, by the end of day three left me feeling a little discouraged. To be fair, a couple of participants in the group did appreciate the training, and one person even tested and became reliable. But I remember feeling bummed that I couldn’t impact more participants!

So what do we do in these situations? How did I make it through those tough three days? It wasn’t perfect, but here is what I DID do that helped me make it through:

I created a mental “Empathy Map”

...and put myself in their shoes. I pondered about what they were thinking and feeling. Besides the obvious resistance, there could also be frustration, worry about the upcoming “inspection,” or even just fatigue at yet “another thing” put on their plates. I could sense the group felt CLASS was irrelevant, and that their local approach was sufficient. My mental empathy map helped me work in “their” space, accept those emotions, and not take things too personally.

 I had working background knowledge of their local “approach”

...and I didn’t use that knowledge to try to convince them that CLASS will be supportive and a good fit; rather, as natural opportunities presented themselves, I made purposeful connections between their curriculum/approach and CLASS. I was lucky to have this knowledge, but I made a mental note to myself. For future host discussions, and before trainings, I was going to find out a bit more their local curriculum and approaches.

I kept it CLASSy

...because no matter what the circumstance, the parallel process is a trainers best friend! By working to build relationships, engaging in social conversations, asking open-ended questions, and querying responses to increase my own understanding, I know I did my best to model what CLASS is all about!

We always hope that every training is a complete success, so it can be hard to recover from a challenging experience. How have you handled those difficult moments in your trainings?

The ABCs of the Parallel Process