Before coming to Teachstone I worked my way from teaching middle school special education to mentoring and training birth to three childcare providers, working with each age level along the way. I have been called a "breath of fresh air" as well as "a rebel with a cause," for my insistence that relationships must always come first. Along the way I moved from Maine to Virginia and had the privilege of experiencing the CLASS tool from many angles -- as a teacher being observed and coached, an observer, a coach and mentor, and finally now as a trainer. I was raised to believe that my education is my responsibility to achieve, not someone else’s responsibility to give to me.
I do a lot of recertification testing in the summer. First, comes Toddler CLASS Observer Recertification, crashing through my June just like a two-year-old. It reminds me that time is passing and summer will be over before I know it. It does that all while sloshing it’s sippy cup and demanding attention. I take this test in a hurry, not listening to my own trainer advice. After that whirlwind has blown through my Teachstone Dashboard, I take a breath and see my Infant CLASS certification quietly letting me know it needs some attention.
I am really into data. Sometimes I think that is why I like CLASS so much. There is so much research behind the tool. After working on Reliability Support (RS) for a few weeks, I noticed that I was always addressing the same handful of issues. My work felt inefficient and redundant. If the RS team could figure out the top five reasons people don’t pass the CLASS reliability test, maybe we could do something proactive about it during the trainings.
I decided that we needed to collect data. I created a simple little spreadsheet (I love making tools!), and with the help of the other CLASS specialists who work the RS line, I was able to come up with a list of the most common questions.
When conducting a CLASS training, there are always a few dimensions I know participants are probably going to struggle with more than others. For instance, Concept Development is going to be tricky for some, followed closely by Quality of Feedback. Usually though, as we progress through training, these dimensions become more clear.
When I am not on the road training teachers, researchers, and coaches on the CLASS tool, you can often find me in the home office. There, I'm busy writing blog posts (like this one!), learning new age levels (did you know we have an observation tool for each age group from Infants through Secondary?), and fielding questions and concerns from the Reliability Support helpline. A few weeks ago a question came through the Reliability Support queue that made me stop and think. After answering it, I realized that there are probably other observers out there who are struggling with this same question, or one similar. So here is the question and my thoughts on it.
Sometimes people want the CLASS tool to be something it isn’t. They want it to be a checklist, perfect, or easy. Some people in observation training want to get all of the answers or codes “correct” (you know who you are). When I remind them that we focus on observers being reliable, or within one point of the Master Code, rather than being perfect, some people get frustrated (yes, you know who you are) and reply, “Yeah, but I want to be RIGHT, not reliable.” And this is my usual reply...
I had a difficult experience during a training last week. It would have been difficult in any setting, but the group dynamics added to the situation. On day two of a three-day training, we received news that a toddler from one of the participant’s programs had unexpectedly passed away the evening before. One participant, a supervisor in that program, had to leave the training early to talk with parents. The other participants were just sitting there, staring at me while I tried to recover from the terrible news and remain present and in control of my emotions. I looked around at the grief and disbelief on the faces of the participants, and knew we needed a break.