Allie Kallmann recently completed her M.A. in Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is currently supporting Teachstone's research efforts from her new home in Charlottesville, VA.
The foundations for language and literacy success are built in the early years. Trajectories for reading proficiency in third grade and beyond are set in birth to five early learning environments. Knowing this, preschool and early elementary educators work hard to provide literacy-rich environments and interactions, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the plans of even the most veteran teachers. These disruptions have changed learning across the board, including in the critical area of early literacy.
A few years into teaching early childhood, I applied to work at a school that does incredible work in the local community. I was thrilled to get an interview but realized very quickly that, even though the environment was supportive and the students were wonderful young people, I was much too intimidated to work there.
From coast to coast and around the globe, there’s a common thread that unites teachers: wanting to be better for their students.
Even when things are tough in education, educators are striving to be their best. Their dedication to equitable, ongoing development is what inspires Teachstone’s work. It will take a systematic, data-driven approach to reach the day when all children are afforded excellent education and care. And, we are enthusiastic partners in getting to that goal.
There’s no sugar coating it - the 2020-21 school year was tough. Teachers, schools, and child care workers shouldered a massive burden, taking work that was already challenging and turning the difficulty up to 11. Well, maybe 12 or 13. Or 15. Who’s counting?
So, as you, educators, prepare for the upcoming school year, Teachstone wanted to recognize all the creativity, flexibility, and impact that teachers have demonstrated. We brought together Teachstone’s Kristin Valdes, Senior Instructional Designer, and Colleen Schmit, CDA Facilitator, in a recent webinar to celebrate the great and important work of teachers and to explore how the smallest moments make big impacts.
Here’s what our hosts shared with and heard from participants.
For Darlene Estes, Teachstone’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, it was her first grade teacher. Along with Sarah Hadden, Teachstone’s Senior Advisor for Policy & Research, she explored the reasons why in a recent webinar: her teacher built a personal relationship with her. She helped a young Darlene feel welcome and safe. She challenged Darlene to think.
The reason Darlene’s first grade teacher was so memorable is because she embodied the heart of great teaching. These powerful interactions are what are measured by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System®, or CLASS®. Together, Darlene and Sarah guided CLASS beginners through some foundational ideas about what CLASS is and how to start thinking more intentionally about teacher-child interactions. Here are three big takeaways:
A read-aloud is a powerful tool. In shared reading experiences, young children explore new worlds, hear new vocabulary, build relationships with their caregivers, and start to apply concepts to their own lives. Books, as it turns out, really are magic.
Recently, we gathered a panel of social-emotional learning experts on the webinar ‘Supporting the Social-Emotional Needs of Every Child and Every Educator.’ The group included Amanda Alexander, VP of Policy and Partnership Development at Teachstone; Bridget Hamre, Co-Founder and CEO at Teachstone; Gene Pinkard, Aspen Institute Director of Practice and Leadership; and Bloodine Barthelus, Director of Practice Innovations at CASEL. Together, they took us through research on the importance of meaningful connections for children’s academic learning - particularly when those children have experienced trauma. As all of the panelists agreed, when implemented intentionally and systemically, social-emotional learning (SEL) can be a tool to advance equity. (If you haven’t watched it yet, you can see the full recording here.)
How have children’s social and emotional needs changed this year?
That’s one of the major concerns Teachstone has been hearing from leaders and educators across the country. Even before the pandemic, teachers in early childhood settings, elementary school, and beyond had increasingly been paying attention to children’s self-regulation, social skills, and other emotional needs. With so much turmoil and loss, what has shifted? How can educators prepare to support children? And...how can leaders prepare to support their teaching staff?
To tackle these questions, we brought together Amanda Alexander, VP of Policy and Partnership Development at Teachstone; Bridget Hamre, Co-Founder and CEO at Teachstone; Gene Pinkard, Aspen Institute Director of Practice and Leadership; and Bloodine Barthelus, Director of Practice Innovations at CASEL. Our experts shared the principles they think are most important for social-emotional learning, the challenges they’re anticipating, and how thoughtful instructional leaders are rolling out new social-emotional initiatives.
Did you know that over 12 million children in the United States (and more every year!) speak a language other than English at home? While the education workforce does not exactly parallel its students’ demographics, we know that many educators are also multilingual. That’s why Teachstone has resources available in both English and Spanish. All children deserve the individualized support and care that best fosters learning - and so do their caregivers and educators.