The recent coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing pandemic of racism and historical trauma have left educators facing an incredibly complex set of challenges.
In early childhood education and child care, we have seen programs across all types of settings struggle to remain open, with many forced to close. Important services to children, families’ livelihoods, and the teaching jobs of thousands of early childhood caregivers and educators have been impacted. In K-12, schools converted much of their teaching to virtual modes of delivery, but the many inequities for students lacking internet, safe housing, food security, and other adversities are likely to increase the challenges these students face in the future.
We know that these unprecedented times raise many serious questions about consequences for classrooms and educational settings moving forward. One set of questions concerns the use of the CLASS observational tool in this current climate.
Since inception, the goal of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) has been to understand and improve teachers’ interactions with children. We centered the tool on interactions between children and their caregivers and teachers because research proves that they are the key classroom drivers of children’s development and learning. And as we are more and more aware, such interactions matter now more than ever.
We strongly endorse the field’s focus that the top priority for programs is to support the mental, social, and emotional well-being of staff and the children and families they serve. In order to do that, interactions throughout the program must be warm, engaging, and grounded in reassuring routines and learning activities.
As schools and centers resume full operations and children return to classrooms, they will arrive there with a new level of uncertainty and many will bring additional worries, anger, and sadness as a result of the traumatic experiences they faced in the prior months. As always, children will look to educators for comfort, structure, and support. Much about classroom life will be different for children - the potential of wearing masks, having fewer classmates, or having to avoid touching adults or other children. It is imperative for educators to make one element of classroom life constant - the provision of emotionally supportive and engaging interactions.
Because interactions are more important to children now than ever, Teachstone recommends the continued use of CLASS as both a means to focus on the quality of classroom interactions and to support educators in their professional development. Systematic CLASS observations as classrooms re-open will provide valuable data to educators about how best to support teachers and will help educators understand the ways in which various changes in classroom settings resulting from COVID-19 may be impacting classroom interactions. This use of the CLASS can help educators address the question “how are we doing?” as they tackle the priorities above.
But as always, CLASS data is only useful if it is actually used to provide targeted professional development and support. During these challenging times, as they work to support their children, a growing number of educators will benefit from resources and support focused on their classroom interactions. And of equal value will be supports that help teachers and caregivers manage their own stress and anxiety about the current crisis and conditions in their personal and professional lives.
We at Teachstone are hard at work creating tools to equip you, through the power of quality interactions, to help children heal.
In the coming weeks we will share more to help answer your questions, such as
We are committed to taking a very careful, thoughtful approach to these important questions and will share more specific guidance with you soon.
As always, our work improves when we learn from you, our partners in the field. If you have thoughts you’d like to share or would like to consult directly with us, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.