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What Would an “All 7s” Teacher Look Like?

01 Jul 2015 by Ginny Vitiello

Several times in the past few years, I’ve had conversations with colleagues about teachers at the high end of the CLASS scale. It’s very rare to see a teacher score in the high range across multiple domains, and especially in Instructional Support. It’s a bit more common to see a teacher who gets 6s and 7s in Emotional Support and Classroom Organization, but low/mid or mid-range scores in Instructional Support.

So people have asked me, “What would a teacher look like who scored sevens in all CLASS dimensions*? Is that even possible? Wouldn’t that be overwhelming for children across a whole school day?”

I watched a teacher (who is now one of our staff members) in her classroom during center time, while children played at tables and with colored blocks in the block area...and I would have rated those interactions in the high range. What did it look like? It was a very calm classroom with a warm, calm, active teacher. The children transitioned straight into centers and quickly got engaged in activities. Their behavior was so good that the behavior management was nearly invisible. The teacher monitored the classroom and went from center to center, asking children a mix of questions that expanded their engagement, probed their thinking, got them talking, and gently pushed them to analyze and reason. Children approached her and included her in their play. I remember thinking the first time I saw it that she was a very special educator.

I don’t know if that was a typical day for her, or if the first few weeks of school would have looked so well-ordered. I don’t know how she handled those pent-up-energy days when kids are just bursting at the seams. But I don’t think a full day in her classroom would have been overwhelming or overstimulating.

What was at work? Children were given a lot of autonomy to choose activities that interested them, and spent much of their time working independently and with peers. Although the teacher was constantly engaged with children at a very high level, she moved from group to group and went with the flow of children’s activities, so her involvement felt natural and not intrusive.

I think intrusive is a key word here. I can imagine teachers scoring high on Instructional Support in ways that are intrusive and overwhelming (although I’ve never seen it). There is research on intrusive parenting and the negative effects it can have on child development. However, a teacher like that would score lower on Teacher Sensitivity, Regard for Student Perspectives, and possibly Instructional Learning Formats—so he or she wouldn’t be an “all 7s” teacher.

In general, there are times of day when it is hard to get all 7s—during hand washing and getting ready for nap, for example. But that doesn’t mean that an all-7s teacher would be too much for children, especially if cognitive stimulation is paired with sensitivity, warmth, and calm. I would love to hear from others, though. Do you know any “all 7s”? What do their classrooms look like? What are the pros and cons?

*Of course, they mean 7s in all dimensions except Negative Climate, and a 1 for NC.

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