I’ve been in the field of early childhood education for over 35 years and absolutely LOVE the CLASS tool. I wish I had CLASS during my years as a teacher and director of ECE programs. I am grateful to have the CLASS tool now to express my continual love for ECE and the importance of great teaching in the early years of children's lives.
As Professor of Child Development at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, I have started using the CLASS tool in all my ECE courses. I cover the CLASS tool with my students for about three weeks. During this time, I do a lot of lecturing to grasp what the tool measures and the concepts of quality interactions. Introducing them to the tool in such a short amount of time has been both revolutionary and revealing.
Before I could fully incorporate CLASS into my course, I had to take a step back and examine my own practice, measure the effectiveness of my teaching, and how I make the most of student time within my classroom. I even changed the format of seating in my lecture room to facilitate more social conversations. As a result of this small change, I noticed that students were chattier and began to learn more from each other.
As a part of introducing the CLASS tool, we watch and discuss videos from the Video Library. Before discussing the videos, I have my students write notes of the interactions they observed. I have noticed a vast improvement in their descriptions utilizing the CLASS lenses. Hearing them use the CLASS terminology with clear accurate examples has been the best part of my teaching since I implemented CLASS.
My students get just as excited as I am about CLASS. Even those who haven’t taken a prior ECE course experience similar reactions to the interactions in videos—such as disgust towards videos that show negative climate. In one clip in particular, my more experienced ECE students engaged in a conversation about why a teacher looked bored. It was great to get them focused on using the language CLASS utilizes like “matched affect” and “social conversation.” Using this common language helps us validate and emphasize the hard work we do in the ECE classrooms.
Introducing the CLASS to teachers in training has helped my students make sense of what children are learning and how we, as teachers, can be more effective. Now we have a tool that can help all ECE professionals raise the academic standards and emotional awareness of children. I have literally fallen in LOVE with CLASS and encourage other higher education ECE professionals to use the tool in their courses as well.
Dr. Rose Maina teaches Child Development classes at Los Angeles Trade Technical College and at other higher education institutions. Former Chair of Child Development 2002 to 2007. Elected member of the Academic Senate Rank Committee. She has also directed several ECE programs including Head Start and afterschool programs. She is an activist in the Early Education and Child Care field representing Child issues ranging from worthy wages for teachers of young children to child maltreatment. She is a participating member of several professional Early Education organizations including PEACH (Partnership for Education, Articulation and Coordination through Higher Education). Dr. Rose served as a First 5 LA CARES PLUS advisor for LAUP. She speaks publicly on topics ranging from strategic planning to goal achievement for non-profit and corporate events. Published author of 'Speaking of Success' (2007) with Jack Canfield, Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard. Her current projects include writing a guide for Teachers of Young Children.
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.
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.
When I first heard that I was going to have to be observed and coached for my job, I was not thrilled by any means. I immediately thought, Great, someone is going to watch me and tell me how terrible I am. I sincerely thought it was going to be nothing but a negative experience.
I recently heard a great analogy about the CLASS tool and I had to share it. I can’t take credit for the idea. Affiliate Trainer, Teresa Bockes, originated the concept, and I loved it the minute I heard it: CLASS is like a house. Let’s build a house step-by-step to learn more about this metaphor.