At Teachstone, we sometimes hear from educators that they aren’t sure how to help facilitate exploration in their learning environments. The CLASS® Manual gives some specific examples, like asking the children to predict which ball will roll further, or making faces back and forth with an infant. But, in this blog post, I want to talk about how the learning environment space itself. The set-up and materials you use can support stronger interactions with children as well.
We know positive relationships are important, but factors such as absenteeism, racial or cultural differences, and other biases can make it difficult for teachers to form those meaningful relationships with every child in their class. And, after a tumultuous 2020-2021 school year, teachers and students alike may need stronger relationships more than ever before.
For Darlene Estes, Teachstone’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, it was her first grade teacher. Along with Sarah Hadden, Teachstone’s Senior Advisor for Policy & Research, she explored the reasons why in a recent webinar: her teacher built a personal relationship with her. She helped a young Darlene feel welcome and safe. She challenged Darlene to think.
The reason Darlene’s first grade teacher was so memorable is because she embodied the heart of great teaching. These powerful interactions are what are measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System®, or CLASS®. Together, Darlene and Sarah guided CLASS beginners through some foundational ideas about what CLASS is and how to start thinking more intentionally about teacher-child interactions. Here are three big takeaways:
A read-aloud is a powerful tool. In shared reading experiences, young children explore new worlds, hear new vocabulary, build relationships with their caregivers, and start to apply concepts to their own lives. Books, as it turns out, really are magic.
Classroom interactions, as described by the CLASS® lens, are at the heart of children's learning and development, and can be enhanced by a highly effective classroom environment and curriculum. This back-to-school season, reflect on the elements of your environment that can support effective interactions to maximize children's learning.
Ask any educator why they do what they do, and they’ll most likely respond ‘for the children’ without missing a beat. It’s why I was a teacher and why a lot of my friends were teachers. It’s the impact we can have on the children in our care that motivates us, drives us, and is the foundation of our passion.
I can look back and for every single class I taught, I can rattle off the names of the children who I had a super strong relationship with, and those that were on the other extreme–a relationship that was weak, or fragmented.
Teachstone, developer of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®) included in 23 states' Quality Rating and Improvement Systems and used by Head Start programs nationwide, today unveiled "Banking Time: Investing in Relationships," a new suite of tools to improve the quality of interactions between teachers and specific children birth through third grade, and in turn, to build strong, positive, equitable teacher-child relationships.
Recently, we gathered a panel of social-emotional learning experts on the webinar ‘Supporting the Social-Emotional Needs of Every Child and Every Educator.’ The group included Amanda Alexander, VP of Policy and Partnership Development at Teachstone; Bridget Hamre, Co-Founder and CEO at Teachstone; Gene Pinkard, Aspen Institute Director of Practice and Leadership; and Bloodine Barthelus, Director of Practice Innovations at CASEL. Together, they took us through research on the importance of meaningful connections for children’s academic learning - particularly when those children have experienced trauma. As all of the panelists agreed, when implemented intentionally and systemically, social-emotional learning (SEL) can be a tool to advance equity. (If you haven’t watched it yet, you can see the full recording here.)
Teachstone applauds the removal of three Confederate statues in Charlottesville, VA. Our organization is headquartered in this Southern city and we have seen first-hand the visceral reaction evoked by these tributes to figureheads of the Lost Cause movement. While the cause of the Confederacy in the Civil War has been lost, the war on racism has not yet been won.
How have children’s social and emotional needs changed this year?
That’s one of the major concerns Teachstone has been hearing from leaders and educators across the country. Even before the pandemic, teachers in early childhood settings, elementary school, and beyond had increasingly been paying attention to children’s self-regulation, social skills, and other emotional needs. With so much turmoil and loss, what has shifted? How can educators prepare to support children? And...how can leaders prepare to support their teaching staff?
To tackle these questions, we brought together Amanda Alexander, VP of Policy and Partnership Development at Teachstone; Bridget Hamre, Co-Founder and CEO at Teachstone; Gene Pinkard, Aspen Institute Director of Practice and Leadership; and Bloodine Barthelus, Director of Practice Innovations at CASEL. Our experts shared the principles they think are most important for social-emotional learning, the challenges they’re anticipating, and how thoughtful instructional leaders are rolling out new social-emotional initiatives.