Collecting observation data is critical, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle! Data collection only yields numbers—and numbers, alone, don’t yield improvement. If the goal of CLASS is to improve outcomes for children, then CLASS observation data must be coupled with coaching and professional development. Effective teachers are the key ingredients in successful classrooms, and those teachers must be supported through individualized efforts built on observation data.
Not true! The CLASS tool is not just for preschool, anyway. It is validated for six age levels ranging from infant all the way up to secondary—and trainings are available for you to become certified on all of them!
Nope. At first glance, this assumption makes sense: someone observing classrooms should understand what goes on in classrooms. However, because the CLASS tool is an objective measure, the most critical requirement for any observer is the ability to put past experiences and biases aside—using only one’s objective notes and the CLASS manual to determine scores. Believe it or not, sometimes the most reliable observers are the ones who arrive to observation training with no education background!
Not true! Young children are naturally thinkers, explorers, and scientists. Let’s give them the credit—and opportunities to think—that they deserve. Still not convinced? Then ask yourself this: How many times have you heard a child ask, “Why?” If you have ever spent time with a young child, then you know this question all too well. When children ask big questions, it stems from genuine curiosity and an urge to explore and think deeply about the world around them. The CLASS tool simply gives teachers strategies to stimulate and facilitate this kind of thinking
When a teacher receives a score of 7 on any dimension of the CLASS tool, it’s fantastic, but not necessarily perfect. Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist! Here’s an example: Mrs. Washington has warm relationships with children, smiles often, offers verbal affection, and shows respect. Every indicator of this dimension fits the high range and she scores a 7 on Positive Climate. Although the observer noticed a lack of social conversation during the observation, that’s okay, because classrooms don’t have to be perfect for a score of 7—and even the best of us can find room for improvement.
If measuring the quality of human interactions was as simple as completing a checklist, the world would be a much different place. It would mean interactions are simple. It might even mean an end to political strife and global conflict! But, alas, interactions are complex. It’s pretty darn amazing to have a validated tool that can measure teacher-child interactions; but make no mistake, the CLASS measure is complex—and needs to be, in order to accurately capture the depth, duration, and frequency of teacher-child interactions.
Editors Note: This blog was originally published on September 30, 2014, but has been revamped to keep the content accurate and interesting.
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?
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.
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.
One of the best things about teaching is having a fresh start every morning. Greeting your students plays an important part in setting the tone of your classroom. I like to think that, as teachers, we get a chance to make a good first impression each day. Let's take a moment to consider the impact greetings can have with students, not only at the beginning of the school day but throughout the day as well.