Sherilyn (Sheri) joined the Teachstone team the summer of 2013. During her years serving as a Head Start Education Coordinator, Sheri became a CLASS observer and then an affiliate CLASS trainer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Child Development/Family Studies from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Her professional experience also includes child-care directing, preschool teaching, parent education, and training adults in the field.
Sheri resides in Elkhart, Indiana—though she is a Michigander through and through! She enjoys writing and reading poetry, visiting historic sites and landmarks, watching really good movies, and spending time with family!
Favorite Teacher: Mr. Harrison, 11th–12th grade (US History)
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
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.
As you know, CLASS® is a tool that captures teacher-student interactions. When it comes to the dimension Concept Development, the focus is on the method the teacher uses to provide instruction in the classroom. While the interactions are what get measured with CLASS, as a teacher you can plan for Concept Development to be more intentionally woven throughout your lessons.
Though exacerbated by the pandemic, turnover in early childhood education is not a new phenomenon. In 2012, the Institute of Medicine & National Research Council reported early childhood settings turnover rates averaging between 25-30 percent. Some pre-pandemic studies indicate it could be even higher, at a startling 26-50% turnover rate. The pandemic has compounded the already present challenge and has made the headlines as our country grapples with the realization that a healthy child care system is critical to our economic recovery.
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?
We have all been there. Admittedly, CLASS Observation training is intense. I never feel too apologetic about that, though I DO have a lot of empathy for how it feels to experience this information-packed two-day training.
When I first joined the Teachstone team as a staff trainer, I conducted long, rather quiet day two experiences. As you know, day two of the CLASS Observation Training is full of videos to observe and code. We watch a video together, take notes, and then spend a good half-hour to 45 minutes coding. It has the potential to feel brutally quiet, and fatiguing.
So, how can we, trainers, facilitate a day two that feels a little more collaborative, and a lot less grueling? There are four videos in day two. Four videos mean we code two in the morning and two in the afternoon.
In our previous Behavioral Marker Series post, we focused on the often-misunderstood marker of “Disconnected Negativity.” As a reminder, CLASS behavioral markers are the bulleted lists of concrete examples located under indicators. You will find the indicators listed under each dimension’s face page.
Let’s dive right into our next challenging behavioral marker, “Evaluation.” Evaluation is found under the indicator of “Analysis and Reasoning,” in the dimension of Concept Development.
CLASS behavioral markers (those bulleted lists of observable behaviors under each indicator on your dimension face pages) are both friends and, if you can believe this, well, at times—foes.
As friends, when teachers engage in behavioral marker based interactions in their classrooms, the quality of children’s experiences improves. As foes, behavioral markers can become checklists during CLASS observations, something our manuals in all age groups advise against doing.
Convincing participants to move off of the manual's face pages, and into the descriptive paragraphs is a constant challenge in CLASS Observation trainings. The face page is comfortable, easy to read, concise, and concrete (you know, with all of those handy-dandy behavioral markers). The tri-fold is even easier, and tugging participants away from that resource during the coding process can be tough as well! My strategies for convincing participants that the descriptive paragraphs are an important step in the coding process starts very early in a CLASS Observation Training and continues throughout the two-days. It starts with a sort of analogy, and I call it “The Rest of the Story."