Think back to when you were new to CLASS. Really try to remember the details of those early days. Most of us had some pretty strong reservations, but we just forged ahead anyway. We had to. The CLASS seemed like just another assessment in a long line of new things to have to learn in an already-impossible work schedule.
Now, think about when you turned a corner and started to trust the CLASS tool. Try to recall the specifics of when you began to overturn your resistance toward CLASS. What was your "click" moment? For me, it was finally doing live observations. I went into those first observations not believing I could code in 10 minutes, much less believing that I could see (or not) all 10 dimensions in every cycle. Lo and behold, there it all was (or was not)! You could have knocked me over with a feather. Learning that CLASS really worked in live classrooms was a huge turning point for me.
Still, there was an even deeper issue for me to overcome. I was fast becoming sold on the tool’s value, but I hadn't yet seen the depth of how CLASS embraced my core value system about children. Even with all my years of training, observing, and working with teachers, I still couldn't see the connection. At first, CLASS didn’t seem to think the same way I did. My trust in the tool evolved over time as I understood the tool with more insight. Once, when I had some concerns about a teacher, I stepped back after I coded and looked at all the scores as a whole picture. I saw that my concerns were not all in Behavior Management or Negative Climate (the place everyone puts them), but there were the low scores in Positive Climate, Teacher Sensitivity, etc. Oh! There was my value system intact, laid out in all 10 dimensions- not just where I was used to putting it.
It sometimes takes a mental shift (just like for trainees in a CLASS Observation Training) for staff to trust the tool, to want to adopt the CLASS lens, and to overcome their habits and resistance. Here are some tips to help your staff begin their trust in the CLASS:
1. Share your story of how you had difficulties with your own trust of the tool.
What changed your thinking to be more trusting of the tool, the master codes, whatever you struggled with? When did you see that it works for your value system? Tell your story.
2. Admit that you know they don’t yet trust this CLASS tool.
Why should they? They don’t know it yet, and they are scared of another observation or assessment tool or what it means for them. Empathize with them. Let them know that you care and that you understand that these are "early days" for them and they have some understandable reservations. Help them to be kind and gentle with their learning curve and to let it all unfold as you start using CLASS in your program
3. Every chance you get, bring the conversation back to children.
Regardless of why your staff are are there, you can trust that they truly care about children. The real reason to use the CLASS tool is because it will better help the children in the end. The reason to trust the CLASS is because it has such a great track record for helping children. Bottom line: it’s about children!
When looking at these videos, your staff is looking through all their old lenses, meaning they're probably only looking at the teacher or getting distracted by the classroom environment. Often, they're less focused on the child’s response to the teacher. Help your staff find their evidence for each indicator based on the child’s response. Watch the child instead of the teacher in some of these clips. Watch their facial expressions and body language. Did what the teacher say or do work for that child at that moment? How do you know that? This shift in questioning makes such a difference. Trust in the tool means understanding how it really works.
5. Use videos and examples to help your trainees understand the meaning of "rote learning."
In understanding CLASS, especially the Instructional Support Domain, we often overlook the need to help teachers see what “rote learning” looks like. I’ve been surprised that so many need more time defining “rote.” Take high-level examples straight from the Video Library. Then, help your staff envision what “not rote” means—“stretching the muscles of children’s brains” (Bob Pianta) and explain what that looks and sounds like. Squeeze in some time to show your favorite Concept Development exemplar video that brings out your passion for the tool. My favorite is “Dividing People Evenly.” What’s yours? Tell a story of classroom you were in that had some great problem-solving, and share what you saw and heard from the children. Let staff see how your trust in the CLASS has helped you to understand how to help teachers support children in very specific ways.
6. Help staff see that the bigger picture extends past their classrooms, programs, states, and even their own countries!
People from all over the world have chosen CLASS because it clearly shows the relationship between higher CLASS scores and better child outcomes. Share with your staff that they are becoming part of this global shift in education that moves students away from rote learning and toward positive relationships and exciting cognitive learning. They can trust that CLASS is a part of this paradigm shift and now so are they.
Let your passion shine; it is all so very hopeful.
In addition to these tips, here are some of our staff recommendations on resources to share and talk about:
Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for our Affiliate Trainer blog in February 2016, but we republished for all administrators, coaches, and staff who struggle with getting buy-in from their colleagues. How do you share something you believe in? Share your story in the comments below.
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