“Show. Don’t tell,” said every writing teacher ever. And just as common was students’ response: “Why?” Whether describing a setting sun or explaining Feedback Loops, I’ve always found it easier to just tell. But I’ve never found it as effective as showing. That’s why I was especially excited to get to spend an hour talking with folks who support teachers’ growth about how to interact with teachers in ways that help show them the kinds of effective interactions we want them to have with kids. We call this kind of showing parallel process. Watch the recording of our webinar to hear more of our conversation.
If you regularly read this blog, then you probably already know that at Teachstone, we’re big fans of the “strengths-based” coaching approach. What is strengths-based coaching, you ask? In a nutshell, a strengths-based approach intentionally focuses on the things teachers are already doing well in the classroom and encourages them to build on what is working. Another way to describe strengths-based coaching: it’s the opposite of a deficit model, which focuses on what teachers are not doing or what they are doing wrong.
A couple weeks back, I came across this story in the Washington Post (and another on Ed Central) that nearly made me spit out my morning coffee. One title asserts, “Billions of Dollars in Annual Teacher Training is Largely a Waste,” and summarizes a study recently released by TNTP, which explores whether teacher improvement could be traced to professional development efforts at scale. But when I consider what I know about the massive umbrella of resources we call “professional development,” I shouldn’t have been so surprised. In fact, when I speak to teachers and administrators, there is often a negative reaction to “traditional” professional development (think: one-off workshops, one-size-fits-all approaches, and deficit-model coaching). This study “found no evidence that any particular approach or amount of professional development helps teachers improve in the classroom.” Which begs the question: If so many teacher improvement efforts are ineffective ... does anything work?
In our earliest implementations, when Teachstone was just being formed, we often heard that teachers were caught off guard by CLASS-based professional development. Trainers were hearing questions like “What am I doing here?” “Why was I asked to attend?” and “How does this relate to my other professional growth activities?” We quickly learned that teachers and professional development providers need to be on the same page about goals. Sometimes goals for teacher-child interactions are set at the program level; sometimes they are set for individual teachers. Either way, everyone needs to be clear on what they are reaching for.
Following the course of my 30+ years in the profession, I clearly recognize that not all early childhood educators have a “common core” of knowledge or experience about how best to work with young children and their families.
As we reach the peak of summer here in Charlottesville, Virginia, thunderstorms break up the heat and provide water to gardens across the city. Just look how beautiful this elementary school garden has become!
The CLASS score report is a vessel for providing informative and constructive feedback to teachers about the effectiveness of their classroom interactions. The report can vary depending on your goals and resources, just like a recipe for chocolate chip cookies (fun fact: you can substitute bananas for eggs if you want a low-fat or vegan option or you’re just out of eggs!), but here’s a tried and true recipe for the CLASS score report cooked up by the chefs at Teachstone.
When we were in Chicago in July, 2015, we caught up with Vanessa Rich, the President of the National Head Start Association and the Deputy Commissioner, Family & Support Services for the City of Chicago. I had the opportunity to ask her about how she leverages data to make decisions about professional development for teachers. Vanessa believes that in Chicago, and across Head Start, reflection is the most important link between data and improvement efforts.
What’s so great about being a preschool teacher? A lot, actually. Working with kids can be an enormously rich, rewarding experience, one that’s regularly sprinkled with “I can’t believe I get paid to do this!” moments.
Like the moment a child hands you a picture they’ve drawn for you of you.
Like the moment a child’s face lights up when you start singing their favorite song.
Like that moment when you’ve engaged all the kids in an activity that brings glee (sheer glee!) into the classroom.
When I was little, my mother encouraged my siblings and I to help her work in our family garden. An avid gardener herself, I still remember the joy in learning simple lessons, such as the need to water our plants regularly—sometimes more than once on very hot days. I can’t tell you how excited we were when we saw our first pea plants sprout!