When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
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’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.
Just as Alice is about to fall through the looking glass into an unknown world, a new cohort of teachers are about to walk across their academic stage into the unknown world of their own classroom. Is it too late to evaluate their readiness to transform their enthusiasm for education practice and principles to the day-to-day challenges presented by a diverse group of young learners? Or, is it more appropriate to ask, what is needed to move these successful students from the safety and familiar halls of higher education to the unfamiliar classroom in the ever-changing arena of education?
You may have noticed the increase in interest in early childhood education (ECE) programs on a national scale. Finally! The topics of child care and ECE have come up in election speeches, legislation, news articles, blogs, and social media on a regular basis. States are using Race to the Top and other funding, as well as adding early learning standards and quality improvement systems (QRIS), with many requiring programs to participate to receive funding. Early childhood educators are being required to go back to school and increase their education for Accreditation or QRIS systems.
We focus a lot on how to help teachers once they are in the classroom, but what can we do to help prepare teachers for success before they even get into the classroom? Recently, I spoke with *Tammy, a teacher who has been in the field for three years. She explained how college prepared her for her work in the classroom, how it didn't, and what she has learned since.
We’ve all been there—the spring semester is looming around the corner. Although you have the gist of the syllabus planned, the details still need to be worked out. Assignments need to be finalized and engaging classroom activities need to be developed.
Here are a few ideas that you might be able to adapt for your course.
Building positive relationships through community and student engagement is one of the core values for the education department at Blue Ridge Community College, a community college located in Flat Rock, NC, with NAEYC-accredited education programs. Faculty in the early childhood and school-age education programs support their students’ success by modeling professionalism, ethical standards, collaboration, and community involvement. Since building positive relationships has been a core value of the program, faculty encourage students to develop positive interactions with children in classroom observations, volunteer work with children, as well as in their practicum experiences.
I once gave a cohort of student teachers each a magic wand as they approached their graduation. My colleague Maggie and I told the soon-to-be-teachers that their wand wasn’t a tool for summoning a fairy godmother to their respective new classrooms (although they were instructed to keep in touch). The wand was intended to serve as a reminder that there is no magic formula in teaching; however, there is a sound, scientific recipe for success, which they had already become very familiar with: the CLASS tool.