CLASS is more than just observations. To really see the principles work for you and your children, what you should be thinking about is building a CLASS culture that permeates the school all year long. How can program leaders do that?

In today’s episode, you’ll hear from Dr. Mike Jacobs, Principal at Apple Tree Early Learning. He’s made building a culture of CLASS a foundational principle at his school. Listen to the episode to learn how Mike is thinking about ensuring educators are getting what they need, separating lead educators and TA's into different cohorts, and building CLASS practices as daily educator habits.

Listen now or enjoy the transcript below!

Want more of Dr. Mike Jacobs? Enjoy this blog that he wrote for Teachstone about building CLASS in three easy steps! 

 Topics Discussed in This Episode

  • [00:01:00] Dr. Mike Jacobs’ background
  • [00:02:43] How Mike builds a CLASS culture within his program
  • [00:08:02] Making sure teachers get what they need
  • [00:15:09] Establishing a culture of CLASS being bigger than just observations
  • [00:18:25] Planning the CLASS program
  • [00:21:01] Why Mike separated lead teachers and TAs for PD
  • [00:22:56] The disconnect that causes teachers other than the lead to be overlooked
  • [00:23:38] Building collective responsibility
  • [00:28:49] Making sure to ask higher-order thinking questions
  • [00:30:33] Turning CLASS practices into teacher habits they use all year long
  • [00:32:35] Mike’s tips on burnout
  • [00:34:17] Creating a path with the team
  • [00:35:45] Barriers that program leaders face during implementation
  • [00:41:08] The composition of Mike’s team

Marnetta: Hello, and welcome to Impacting the Classroom, the podcast that talks about big topics that have an even bigger impact in early education. I'm your host, Marnetta Larrimer.

What's impacting the classroom? Getting started with CLASS in a program can be very challenging when you don't prepare your staff for that transition. Building a strong culture around class that gets educators excited and motivated in their work can help ease that transition and lead to better results.

Dr. Mike Jacobs joins us today, principal and instructional leader at AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School. You may recognize him from InterAct Now, where he recently presented. Hello, Dr. Mike.

Mike: Hello. So glad to be here. Thank you for having me, Marnetta.

Marnetta: I am just excited that you were able to make the time. I'm very interested in this subject. It's a great time, especially when organization systems are trying to figure out what they're going to do with this new allotment of funds as they're getting CLASS into their systems or building their next level of CLASS in their system. I think this is going to be a very timely discussion. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself before we jump in?

Mike: Sure. Again, welcome. So glad to be here. I'm Dr. Mike Jacobs. I am a principal in Washington DC, serving the most earliest learners, the three- and four-year-olds. I'm so happy to be an early childhood educator and advocate for early literacy. I'm so glad to be here. Again, it's a great opportunity.

Marnetta: Wonderful. That was shorter than I thought it was going to be. There was a time you got all the office staff. You're just like, straight to the point. First of all, I just want to say yay. I'm always excited when I see males in the classroom, but especially in our earliest learning classroom. Thank you for being there and representing me and that inspiration for children in those classrooms.

Mike: Yeah. I started in kindergarten, and I never left. Pre-K4 though is my pride and joy. I love it dearly. It's just been amazing. I've always wanted to change the face of the classroom and be that positive representative for our students. I come to work in my sneakers and blazer. The kids get to see me in a different light, and I just appreciate that. They learn so much. I'm grateful just to serve them because it is a great opportunity.

Marnetta: I hear so many classy things happening in how you come to work. You are wanting to make yourself relatable so that children can connect, and you can build those relationships. Let's dive into my first question for you. How did you build a CLASS culture within your program?

Mike: I recognize that people are the greatest asset. I really had to focus on making sure that the people that I'm working with know the why. They know just how to set up their classroom and how to build relationships with kids because at the very foundation, I remember when I got out of the classroom, my principal said, one thing that you're good at is building relationships, so we're going to make you a dean. You're going to be the person to do that.

At the very foundation level, if we're able to build those relationships with students, that teacher and student interaction is much more positive. I have a motto at my school: Safe, Happy, and Fed. If kids feel safe, if they feel happy, and they are fed, all of their needs are met, that's where learning happens. Foundationally, it starts with our people and making sure that they know exactly why.

They have a vision. Once I started the year, I led it with the vision of why this is important and why we need to lead with this. They've been through the process before, but they've never had an instructional leader who has actually been through the entire process. I was a teacher, that my principals observed me with CLASS. I'm on the admin side and now leading with CLASS. Having that lens is also really important as well.

I'm not just going in and doing observations with CLASS. We're living and breathing this because if you look at the indicators, there is emotional support, classroom organization, and instructional support. When you think about all of those things, it encompasses the early childhood classroom, making sure that the environment is nurturing. It's not a negative climate. We focus on that regard for a student perspective so that they feel safe.

They can come to the classroom and talk, be engaging, and the educators in the instructional support are the subject matter experts. Here's the thing. We actually have to honor the profession a lot more in the sense that teachers are subject matter experts. They are the SMEs. I want them to know that and receive that. The first time I said that they're subject matter experts, they're like, what? What are you telling me?

I help them to understand that they have so much power in their classroom that they are able to change the trajectory of lives. Building those higher order thinking questions, making sure that you pull in that background knowledge, and all of those things. When we look at CLASS in itself, it really hones a foundation around what an early childhood classroom is supposed to look like, sound like, and feel like. I lead with the people.

Another thing that I do is getting to know my staff really well. I'm not only focusing on building relationships with students. That's going to come like, I love the babies, they'll come jump on my shoulder. That's not going to happen.

Really focusing on the strengths of my staff members, bringing them into that planning process with me because as a leader, sometimes we just think like, oh, we need to think about the plan and just go execute it for teachers. No. They're a part of my brain and my thinking process so that I'm able to now create that buy-in so that they're like, oh, we didn't just make this decision on our own. We made it as a collective, and we have a collective responsibility to make sure that all students learn. I can talk a lot, so you just let me know.

Marnetta: This is great. You're talking about this parallel process. In this culture, those indicators, those behaviors that we see in the CLASS tool and how it mirrors your interactions with your teachers, those adult to adult interactions, that really is key. It's the best space for learning. You're making sure that their needs are met so that they can do what they need to do.

In my mind, when you're talking about that SME and just the shock and awe that they have when you were just like, you're this SME, and they're like, what? When we talk about just how hurt and impacted teachers are about the things that happen to them and how it affects their efficacy, their abilities know that they are capable, able, bodies to initially change and do the work, I think my heart would have broke if I would have said that and I got that reaction about what, you didn't know this? What happened to you, and how do we get this back? We can't do this without you.

Just noticing that you're instilling that in them and giving them that because they have what they need. Nobody can do their job, that's why they're there. That's why it hurts when they're gone. You're irreplaceable. We're feeling that in the field at this moment.

Mike: Yeah. The teachers have a lot on their plates. Sometimes people say, oh, when you come to work, you leave that stuff outside. No, people need to be able to bring their full selves to work. Even on a very foundational level, just getting to know them. Hey, how are you? How was your weekend? And how's your daughter?

Those little moments, even if it's for five seconds. You just connect with someone so that when my day starts, I go downstairs for my teachers, I greet everyone, and you're not popping, if I remember something, somebody told me like, oh, I had a graduation, I'll check in on that because that's a level of accountability for me to be like, okay, you told me you were going to do something. What was going on? How was your kid? Or how these things are happening? Because they're like, oh, he actually cares about me. I do.

I want to know how you're doing because if you're not well as the educator in the room, then students won't be well. I had to make that shift because we often say, oh, we're doing this work for the kids. We're doing the work for the kids. Yes. However, the adults are the ones that are working directly with the students.

I'm in my office most of the day. I come down and do what I need to do on the ground level, and kids know my name. That's the other thing, too. As a principal, kids need to know your face. They need to know who you are. You have to be able to come down as a school leader to make sure that it happens.

Again, thinking about making sure that I go down, I have those conversations, I lead with that inspirational leadership, and empower those teachers to be their best selves because again, I was going to give an example. I had happy hour, just randomly being grown, randomly talking to a lady at the bar, and came to find out she was a lawyer, a big lady.

She said to me when I told her that I was in education, she was like, you have to focus on the adults. You have to focus on the people that are on the ground. Teachers come out swinging every day. They come out and it's just like, as a school leader who set the vision, set the tone, set everything, how am I showing up to support them and making sure that they have everything they need?

I have a saying in my building, teachers get whatever they want. I'll answer questions later. But if it's to make sure that it's for supporting students, the answer is always yes, because so many times they're being told no.

As an educator, so many times I've been told, nope, you can't do that. No, there's a system for this. Provide students with opportunities, experiences, and so many things. A lot of our students don't get to have those experiences.

Last week, I did a session on early instruction. I love guided reading and early literacy. One of the points were, when a child sees a stop sign, some students, not all, are able to quickly recognize, oh, the words on that, they said stop, and it has a meaning.

Think about a child who is constantly riding the bus. They are riding around in a car, and no one says to them, hey, you know what that is, that's a stop sign. It means to stop. They wouldn't have any context of that.

From a program level, we have 11 different units. How are we using CLASS to ensure that the environment is rich, we're providing students with higher order thinking questions—language modeling, quality of feedback—and how are we providing them information? You can print a stop sign and put it up in dramatic play. That's a stop sign, and what are you doing? You stop.

The next time that you're in the car with mommy and daddy, or you're riding the bus, and the stop comes out, it's like, oh, that means stop. Making those connections. But again, if you don't empower teachers to think like, oh, actually, no. They have to get out of their head. These are things that I communicate with my folks. Get out of your head. You have all that you need. You have all the lived experiences for our students. The more that they come to school and get your brain, oh, my God, they're going to be brilliant.

I think it's a struggle sometimes because, again, they've been broken so many times. They've been told no so many times, and it's just like, well, I'm here to build you up. It's not even so much about building them up to be educators. It's building them up to be strong human beings. A lot of educators, once they leave their education programs, or once they get through, they take their practices, they're not touching the book.

Marnetta: No. They'll do those required PD hours. That's it.

Mike: That's it. It's just like, well, how are you building yourself? Remember, like I said, that first level is people. As an educator, how am I feeding you this information that is bite-sized so that you're able to get it? Because I know once you leave work, and you're working with 3- and 4-year-olds, 15, 16, 17, some classrooms have 23 of them, you're going to be tired.

I don't fault you for not wanting to read a book. You probably want to go to sleep. As educators, we need to be lifelong learners. I really believe that and really live that experience.

Marnetta: Again, so much thoughtfulness in your approach to creating this nice CLASS-centric environment and culture in your program. As you were talking about knowing your people and building those relationships, what a great mirror to how impactful that is for them to do with children, because there's caring about me, and being able to recite who my husband is, that I have children, et cetera.

The type of questions that you're asking and revisiting comes from an authentic place, which is a whole different thing. That genuine, authentic, like I care about you. There's no fake in there because you can tell the difference.

People arrive differently based on how that approach is. If it's this performative check in of [...], it's way more than that, the depth in which we're really trying to understand them, get to know them, and value them as those human beings. That translates, as you said, to the work that they're doing with the children in the classroom.

Mike: Thank you for highlighting that because even sometimes, I don't make that connection because I'm doing it so naturally. It's just like, okay, these are the steps that I'm doing, but I know that ultimately, it reaches somewhere, and it does something for the teacher and the student.

Marnetta: Absolutely. We talked about this CLASS culture, its importance, and how impactful it is for not only the teachers but the students. How did you establish this culture and ensure that it's not just around CLASS observations, and it's this thing that's just going to happen to them? How did you really build this importance of it being bigger than just CLASS observations?

Mike: At the beginning of the year, we all have that PD week. The theme for my school year, since I started at AppleTree this has been my theme: Ready, Set, Sail. There's a book on it, a kid's book, Ready, Set, Sail. Sometimes it's going to be rocky, sometimes it's going to be smooth sailing. Sometimes we're going to be cruising. But there are moments when we are going to have to get everybody on the ship. On the top deck, everybody's going to work.

CLASS was one of the indicators where I said,this is what we're going to die for. If we're going to do this well, we have to implement it and have to do it well. They understood on a larger level, like okay, this is our metric. This is what deems us a qualified institution, and this is what we need.

Sometimes principals don't tell them the real thing. They're like, oh, this is just what we have to do. Why am I doing something if you're not going to tell me why I'm doing it? What is the purpose of this?

From the foundation level, I gave them the why. I tell them why we're doing this. This is why. When I come into your classroom, I want to see good quality education for our babies because if they don't have anything else, they can come to school and get that from you.

Marnetta: That's right. I think that's one of the things that really drove me in the classroom. It's just being not either a filler of knowledge or an expander of that knowledge, just depending on the children that were coming into the space and what they needed. You just never know, and you have to be ready for all of those things.

Have that metric. This is just the hill that we're going to die on. This is what we're doing in all things. It makes it really less painful when it comes to the CLASS observation because you're doing this stuff naturally, every day, all day long.

Mike: And that's the thing. With that, one of the big rocks was planning. I set the vision, Ready, Set, Sail. This is the hill we're going to down. This is what everybody's looking at when they come, so we're going to be real about it. This is what people are looking for. We want to make sure that we're doing well at this, but then making sure that they understand the why, they get it, and they're doing it already in their classrooms.

I have to commit and give them examples. During your read aloud, that's concept development. However, if you're not planning for that read aloud, that's where you fall short. That's where you get the ones and twos, that scale.

One to seven, where are we falling on the scale? If you're not planning effective instruction, then you're not going to be able to bring in that background knowledge, then you're not going to be able to give that quality feedback because you yourself wasn't prepped, planned, and studied enough to make that happen.

One of the big rocks (like I said) was planning, making sure that they're internalizing their lessons and really processing like, okay, because from a program level, all of the materials and everything is given to them. But for me, I want to see that you are internalizing this stuff.

Once a week, they send me lesson plans. In those lesson plans, I want to see misconceptions. They saw the benefit of it because then, they were like, oh, I'm always able to answer a question right away because I thought about that student in my planning. I knew he was going to ask me something like this, and here's the response.

We're thinking about those misconceptions and the responses to those misconceptions. We often stop. What is the misconception? No, I want you to think about an answer and think about a student in your classroom. You're like, you know what? Little Johnny's going to ask this question, and guess what I'm going to be ready for when you ask him.

That's the next layer of planning that I want teachers to be able to embody all the time so that when they get in front of challenges, and even still did it, if no misconceptions come up, they can bring up a misconception. Like you know what? I used to have a teacher. I'm going to make an error. I'm going to make an error because guess what? This classroom is a safe place to make errors.

That's that emotional support. Kids feel safe to talk to the teacher and make errors. They will raise their hand and share something. If it's not right, the teacher is not going to say, oh, that was horrible. You know what I'm saying? Like, no, let's talk about that.

Let's engage. Who can help a friend? Then circle back to that friend. Good teaching strategies because we need those, and making sure that we hold kids accountable to their learning, too. That planning piece from a program level is important, because then you're able to tie in those pieces to CLASS.

One of the things that I did was I separated my cohorts. I did lead teachers and TAs. I separated them because what I realized is that the TAs were drowned under the lead teachers. They won't say much in PD when I do them together. It's like, what is going on?

Marnetta: They don't feel that value. They don't feel they have anything to bring to the table.

Mike: Right, and it's almost like a deflection of responsibility. You deal with that. Guess what? Not in this building. I separate them, I give the lead teachers what they need, and I create a scope and sequence for the TAs.

I tell you, it was the most powerful thing that I could have done in my leadership practice because I had TAs now getting up practicing, looking at standards, like okay, what is the standard for this? Oh, here's the question I can ask to support this standard. Then, in the practice, I'm giving them feedback. Their peers are giving them feedback. It was a safe little incubator where they can be their full self, and they can learn something.

When I say everybody participates, everybody was like, all right, all right. But they also get to see their peers doing the same thing, because sometimes they don't get to see that. They don't get to see what other people are doing in their classroom, but they're like, oh, I like how you did that. All right, I'm going to do that too. I'm going to put that in my toolbox because teaching assistants also need their toolbox filled as well.

Marnetta: They do because their interactions matter as well. That's oftentimes what classrooms are missing. We're so focused on the lead teacher, we forget that there's another person in here with these individuals who should be doing the same thing. Where's that disconnect?

Mike: Exactly. I say this all the time. I said, everybody carries a load for CLASS. Not just one person. Guess what? The TA better be leading morning meetings or doing a read aloud. It's no games, everybody does it. If the score doesn't reflect well, then that tells me that there are some more instructions that need to happen so that we can build this person up, because it gets stressful for the lead teacher to have to carry the load all for that whole observation time.

Marnetta: In CLASS, you know how intensive that is.

Mike: Yeah. Can you say something, please? Again, that's where we built that collective responsibility in the beginning. Everybody knew that they had a part to play. On this CLASS ship, this is what we're going to do. Everybody does it, so being clear with that.

They knew when the day was coming, it's like, all right. They showed me their plans and what we're going to do. Also, my team was stressed out a little bit around just, how are we going to do? I'm just like, you're fine. Do the things that you do all the time, and trusting them to do that.

What I've experienced is that, school leaders for that specific day, no, I'm not doing that. What I'm going to do is start from August and infuse PD. One of the things that I talked about during the InterAct conference was providing that PLC and PD. It's similar to the PD that I did with the TAs and the lead teachers, providing them with that PD. A 30-minute bite-sized quick because we know, adult learners, our attention span is very short.

We're not going to sit in a two-hour PD and you think you're going to get a whole lot of stuff done. Quick 20-minute, 30-minute PD. You get direct instruction, you get to practice. I model it because I want you to know how I want to see it done, then you get to practice, you get to put your own spin on it. We give you some feedback, and then I send you on your way.

Quick, bite-size, and it's not overwhelmingly like, oh, my God, we got to go sit in this PD today, because they know they're coming out with something that's going to be beneficial to them. That was key to making sure that throughout the year, there's a good scope and sequence.

From a program level, once we got back our scores from last year, I looked at all the classrooms and said, where were we low? How can we get better? One of the indicators was regard for student perspective. I realized, okay, everybody is either in the low-mid range, mid-range in regard to tutor perspective. We can't have that.

What can we do to boost these scores? PD was surrounded around regard for the student perspective. Those indicators underneath, regardless of one's perspective like, what does that mean? What does that look like? You know what was powerful? I'll tell you a secret.

Marnetta: Ready.

Mike: There are different indicators on the CLASS where they come to observe. Morning meetings, read aloud, snack time, and so forth. What we looked at is, how can these varying indicators show up in the different components of the day? You will get really high in morning meetings for certain things. But then when snack time comes, it's looking like, okay, what's going on? It looking really low.

What we sat down and had conversations about is, and this was the sessions with my lead teachers, hey, what does this look like during snack time? What does this look like during recess because some observers observe during recess? Mealtime in the morning, breakfast because they start when students come in, what does this look like?

They're like, oh, we can do this. Now their wheels start to turn because they're understanding like, oh, man, we didn't have too much conversation during meal. That could maybe be why you're low in certain areas because you weren't talking to the children. Please talk to the children.

We know that they're eating, but you can also teach them to chew their food and talk. We do it all the time. It's called when we go to happy hour, we [...]. Again, that was just really helpful for them to see, but leaders aren't doing that work with them.

We have to sit down with our educators and go through it with a fine tooth comb like, what did you do during this time? Oh, maybe you should try that. Have you thought about doing a science lesson? Oh, no, I didn't think about that. Maybe you might want to pull on that because that can get some inquiry going on. That can pull really being intentional with the planning pieces of just a strategic about being prepared for not only that day but throughout the year.

We have to start early. We have to start in the beginning and lead with that. Like I said, PD started in the beginning of September, and we went all the way through. I created a scope and sequence based on where the indicators were low to do that because another thing is when kids are in centers, the TAs are the ones circling and making sure that students are on task. But are you asking higher order thinking questions, or are you just, hey, are you okay?

Marnetta: You're making a pizza? All right, sure. Next.

Mike: Listen. What? Ask them questions. A quick hack, when you're planning for the unit, put your questions up for the unit because the curriculum provides some questions. You don't have to go thinking and looking for certain things. They're already there. Use your resources, use what you have. Put it up in your center because if you don't use it, another adult who's coming into the room will also use it.

The level of planning and intentionality with CLASS just has to be on par because if you don't use it almost, it's low level, very, very low level, very just subpar, kids just coming to school. But when we look at it through the lens of CLASS, it's that high level, higher order. It feels classy. It feels good to be in a rich environment where students are learning, they're engaged, they can use the language. I love going into the classroom and kids are able to tell me, yeah, we're learning about rectangles and prisms.

Marnetta: Teachers feel successful. We were talking about these observations and what you were talking about. Just practicing and massaging that CLASS muscle all year long, it's now a habit. It's second nature. I don't have to think about it when someone comes to observe because we've been doing this. It's not another thing, it's just something that's happening that day.

Mike: Yeah, and just thinking about teacher habits. I think we are struggling now to come back to a sense of normal without teacher habits. Coming out of the pandemic like, oh, yeah, we used to do that. Oh, yeah, we need you to bring it back. We need you to do that again.

We figure out how we can even magnify it because what I don't like, especially for certain things like letter of the week, please don't sit on the carpet until the kids. Oh, our letter of the week is A. Baby, if you don't put something in a bag and shake it out, I'm bored.

You put their hand in something because what I learned is that students learn more when they're happy when all their senses are engaged. The more that we hype something up, they'll learn it.

Even when I was an educator in the classroom teaching, I used to take my shoes off, got the little funny socks on. Why are you taking your shoes off? Yup, because when I take my shoes off, you all know it's learning time. I hold this book up, and I tell them, you know what, I love to read. I love to read. I want you to love to read too. They're sitting in their carpet seats like, oh, my God, you want to read this book?

Marnetta: They know you're getting ready to alter the voices. You're getting ready to modulate.

Oh, my goodness. This time has gone by so fast. I have so many things left. Hold on. We talked a little bit on how you get teachers to be motivated and use CLASS. You focus them on the why. What are your tips on burnout?

Mike: That's a good one. I believe that point of connection from the beginning around just that relationship and acknowledging, remove the toxic positivity. Removing that because of the real thing. I want to humanize you. I don't expect you to just brush everything under the carpet and then show up to work like everything is okay. No, I acknowledge like, oh, that was hard. That's difficult to deal with.

Burnout is real. How can I support you with that? Is there a room and a schedule where I can let you leave early? Is there a room where I can maybe cut down to staff meetings so I can let you go? Is there a point where I can say, you know what? We're fully covered today. Take a late start?

Just also asking them, what do you need? A lot of teachers don't want the gifts. They don't care about all of those things. Please let me go home, I want to go lay down, or I want to be social. I want to do something. We get into the system of forcing adults to do things they don't want to do. We can't do that because then, we're even forcing them to be more burnt out.

Marnetta: And disconnected.

Mike: Yeah. How am I, as a school leader, creating a path with my team? If you need something, just let me know. If you have an appointment that you need to run to, we'll figure it out because what I don't want to do is for you not being able to get to an appointment, drop your car off to the dealership, or different things like, it can be stressful.

Marnetta: Very much, especially in a role that is during regular business hours.

Mike: As a leader, what can I do to make sure that you get what you need? It may be unconventional. It may not be something that you tell everybody, honestly, in your network. This is my building. This is what we're going to do here to support the vision and mission of the work that we have to do because I need you all to be well.

Marnetta: People first, but that also lends itself. That's a CLASSy principle. That's that genuine, authentic, organic caring that you are talking about, and humanizing them. What you're doing is a role, but you're a person first. In order for you to be effective in their role, you can't pour from an empty cup. I'm going to need you to take care of your cup.

I've heard so many wonderful ideas coming from you in creating this CLASSy culture that's just organic, and it is what it is. This is how we're going to ride, this is the goal, and this is where we are planting our flag. This is what we are doing. What are some common barriers that program leaders can expect if they wanted to try to do that same type of implementation?

Mike: It starts with the leader. That emotional intelligence with me first. You have to know you and know your position in leadership. Some people are transactional leaders. Some people are inspirational leaders. There are so many different types of leaders. But at the core of who you are, you recognize that you are leading and serving people. That's important.

If your day-to-day is to micromanage everybody and make everybody feel like crap, it's just not going to work well for you. There's a different level of leadership that comes with honoring the people that you work with. But a barrier could also be from this perspective, accountability. It's hard to hold people accountable when life happens.

Life is hard for folks. You have this expectation. Sometimes folks aren't able to meet that expectation, so hold this false sense of accountability. You have to do this, you have to do that. It becomes challenging to hold folks accountable.

I think from the foundation level, everyone gets something different in my building. I do not treat all of my staff members the same because they're different people. It can get you in trouble because they'll talk about it. They'd be like, oh, he did this, he can't do that for me.

Marnetta: They understand that you're being intentionally individualized. You're individualizing based on what you know about them and what they need. They all need it at different times or in a different way.

Mike: I think another barrier would be just that communicating. A lot of leaders don't know CLASS well, so they don't know how to look at the indicators. They just notice scores and data. But being that I've gone through the entire I've talked with it, now leading with it, I give observations and do those things and being CLASS-certified. I can get real with my educators and say, hey, this is what I need you to do, or what do you think you need to do?

Here's the indicator. How do you think this looks like? What do you think this looks like in morning meetings? What do you think this looks like? And bringing them into that conversation.

I think we have a lot of leaders from the top-down telling people what to do, and they've never experienced it, and that's a challenge. You have to be able to communicate like, hey, I don't know exactly what that is, let me google it. That's real.

There are some things I don't know about CLASS. But if I need to know something, I'm going to try to figure it out because the Teachstone website has lots of great resources that I've pulled from. Let me pick that up here. You use that Teachstone website, it's helpful. It has stuff that we can use.

I think, lastly, we have to figure out a good process. Knowing the scores, making sure that you pick your focus. I think we talked a little bit about it. I observe in two weeks cycles. We develop these long nine week cycles. Folks even forget what they're supposed to do.

Pick your focus and observe in two weeks' cycles because sometimes, principals want to look at the whole big thing, and then go in and give all this feedback. It's not going to be helpful. That's a barrier too, like not being able to know specifically what to hone in on. You find something to hone in on, you pick your two-week cycle, observe your teachers with that intention, and give them that feedback.

I've gotten to the place in my building where I can give you in the moment feedback. Oh, can you do that again? Can you ask that question again? Or can we do a turn and talk right here? This will be a great place for them. They'll be like, okay, cool. Let me hit back.

Again, relationships. If you don't have the relationships, you can't navigate your building in a way that will deem these results. A lot of people are doing crazy things out there, thinking that they're supporting teachers, and they're not. They're not getting the results.

Marnetta: I appreciate that. First of all, thanks for the plug for the Teachstone website. We do rock. We have all the things that you need there. You said something key, too. Because of your journey, you also are a resource. You've built this credibility with your team because you are an observer. You've learned about it right. You speak from a place of knowledge.

Oftentimes, sometimes when we get into those higher levels, you're talking at a high level, but they can't really get into the weeds of what they can tell you because they don't really know, because they haven't gone through that process so that they have the information to be able to spot pivot in a classroom and things like that.

Before we go, the last thing I want to ask. We've talked about this. I want people to have an understanding of what your group looks like. If you could tell us how many teachers, coaches, students there are. Tell us about your campus and the amount of people that you're supporting this work with.

Mike: I have a team of 23. That includes lead teachers, TAs, and we have extended day staff. They're also in my classrooms. I work with them to make sure that they're familiar with the process of CLASS and how to ask those higher order thinking questions. Everyone gets something.

I do also have an implementation specialist with the AppleTree Institute who comes in and observes teachers using the CLASS lens. I have about 100 or so kids in my class, in my school with six classrooms, three- and four-year-olds.

Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you so much because three and fours rock. Thank you so much for that. This was amazing. The time flew by so fast. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us today.

Mike: Thank you for having me. I would love to talk again, and we can go.

Marnetta: We can do this again maybe on our virtual happy hour. Thank you for joining us. You can find today's episode and transcript on our website, As always, behind great leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together. You are amazing.

Mike: Thank you.