It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.
Just then you realize that you are nearing the end of May, the school year is just about over, and summer vacation is just around the corner. You think to yourself, “But wait, how am I going to keep this momentum going with such a long break?” Summer is a time to relax and unwind, but it can also be a momentum killer. But does it have to be? Let’s look at some strategies you can use to help your teachers, and yourself, keep the momentum going.
Take the time to reflect on the successes that you and your teachers had this year, and encourage them to do the same. Overlooking the short-term successes because you’re looking at the mid-term or long-term horizon is an easy trap to fall into. No matter how small you think they are, it’s important to recognize the positives. When I was coaching, I used to check in with my teachers early on in the summer months, when they were just starting to relax and unwind and let them know how proud I was of the hard work they had put in. I would then encourage them to make a list of their accomplishments to share with me. It was a nice way of saying, “I know that you worked hard and this work is not easy, but you did it!” Who doesn’t love having someone recognize their efforts?
It’s easy to lose the momentum when you are not in contact with your teachers. It’s important to let them know that just because it is the summer and they are not in the classroom, that doesn’t mean that they have to lose all contact with you or other colleagues. One great way to do this is to invite them to join The CLASS Community. By doing so, they can continue to take part in discussions, get new ideas, or just bond with other like professionals. We all know that raising children, whether at home or school, takes a village. The CLASS Community is your village, so feel free to use it to network and stay in contact even when you have a break from teaching and coaching.
Summer is always a time for me to gather new ideas for the upcoming school year. What worked and should be kept in my practice? What do I think can be done differently, and I want to tweak? Since the school year always seems to be such a busy time, and I don’t get to read as much as I want, I take the extra time that I have during the summer months to read and write down ideas and strategies that I want to try out going forward. There is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips with the Teachstone blog. Whether you are a classroom teacher, a coach, an administrator, or a director, there is something for everyone.
Something started the momentum you are experiencing. While you may not be able to recapture what created the initial buzz completely, you can facilitate events that will remind your teachers of what got them here. Holding outings, retreats, training sessions, and team-building exercises on a regular basis will rekindle the original vision and purpose of the work, helping further a sense of excitement and keep your pace.
Perhaps the easiest thing to do to maintain momentum for you and your teachers is to keep raising the bar. Setting new goals to replace an accomplished goal before a big break will consistently keep you moving full steam ahead. Keep the new goals attainable and in line with what got you started—and make sure they fit in with the overall vision you have already created. For example, during the previous school year you and your teachers tackled Behavior Management, which we all know is a big one, so maybe this year you want to move on to Concept Development.
These are just a few of the strategies that you can use to keep the momentum going over the summer or any other long break away from school. What other ideas can you share to keep it going?
Can we talk about structure? When CLASS entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including State and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural – which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
On a hot summer day in July 2016, I had the good fortune of being the one not on vacation on our small policy and research team. Instead, I went to DC to serve as Teachstone’s representative for a convening of policymakers, researchers, and ECE practitioners. They were gathering to discuss if and how exemplary Head Start grantees might be identified for Leading by Exemplar, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Bellwether Education Partners.
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.