I started out thinking I would write about how CLASS can help children who have challenging behavior, and then the thought occurred: that while yes indeed, I am helping children with difficult behaviors, I’m actually using CLASS to take away the focus from the child having the challenging behavior and instead, placing it on the teacher who sets the environment for the child.The CLASS tool has over 60 behavioral indicators that a teacher can check before needing to put a child on a behavior plan or even an IEP. I encourage the teachers that I mentor to look at a CLASS scoring sheet to match a child’s difficult behavior with a CLASS indicator.
For example, a child might have difficulty coming into the classroom every morning, so the teacher may make a note in the area she thinks the behavior correlates. She can ask herself these questions under Emotional Support: Am I smiling when the child comes to the door? Am I responding quickly to the needs of the child? Am I acknowledging their emotions? Perhaps the child comes into the classroom fine in the morning but loses it during center time. The teacher has the option to ask herself more questions: Does the child have enough to do? Are they taking risks with their learning? Do I have an individual job for the child?
If all behavior is a form of communication, then the CLASS tool literally provides a road map to help decipher challenging behavior. CLASS gives coaches and administrators an objective framework through which to conference with teachers. Once teachers have done a self-reflection with a scoring sheet, I will informally observe them in regards to one child. When we meet after the observation, I am able to say, “I noticed that you didn’t respond in a warm tone to (the child in question). Let’s look at the CLASS manual to see what might be helpful for you.”
By speaking through the CLASS tool, we can place the emphasis back on the teacher’s intention and influence in the classroom and will begin to see children's behavior through a new lens. CLASS has provided us with over 60 behavioral markers to check and I’m betting that many behavioral problems in the classroom will diminish if teachers are encouraged to use these markers to take another look and reframe the challenging dynamics in their classrooms.
Beth Peddle is the instructional literacy coordinator for NHCS Early Childhood Education program in Wilmington, North Carolina. Beth is a teacher mentor and coach, storyteller, general organizer of things, and is interested in mind/body/spirit connections in public school. She holds a teaching license in Birth-Kindergarten education and a Masters degree in Education with a specialization in Language and Literacy. Like Dr. Becky Bailey, she believes "Love is the best motivator for learning and growth."
So, it’s June and you have just wrapped up the year with your students. They have made tremendous progress over the course of the year. The routine of the day flows naturally, the expectations about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior is fairly clear to all of them (and to you), and you leave the school year feeling confident that they are ready for the new challenges that lie ahead. You go into the summer months looking forward to a much needed break, but also looking forward to your new group of students in the fall.
As a Certified CLASS Affiliate Trainer, I enjoy reading the discussion posts and responses in the CLASS Learning Community. It gives me further insight into the areas that teachers have questions about, and the responses and techniques that members of the community are sharing with others. Usually I just sit back, read along, and take it all in.
Then recently someone posted, “I'd love some great examples of what Quality of Feedback looks like when you're working with less verbal children. For instance... creating an effective feedback loop off of what a child does more so than what he or she says.”
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.