Ice breakers- ugh. That’s what goes through my mind when I hear that term. But, as a trainer I know the importance of setting the stage for the training, and beginning to build a group of learners into a community of learners. One of the most enjoyable part of training CLASS observers is to see the group contribute to discussions, ask questions and support each other’s learning.
For me, the point of the icebreaker is to create an atmosphere where learners feel comfortable to contribute, and build a common sense of purpose. So, I’ve found to a way to do this that works for me.
In order to gain insight into the people I will be training and start to build the group dynamics. I ask them to tell the group who they are, what their job is, and to share something they really enjoy seeing in a classroom and something that they find challenging to see in a classroom.
What usually happens is that many of the participants share the similar ideas about what a “good” or “bad” classroom may look like (they may say “I agree with what everyone said”) and this is a first step into building a sense of community to the comments. I call this bias. We all have bias, it’s human nature, but with the CLASS, there is no room for bias! Having insight into their educators’ hearts helps me scaffold their thinking to consider only the key interactions that we use to assess classrooms.
From their answers I can often anticipate how their bias might impact their understanding of the measure. For instance, someone who likes to see teachers on the floor playing with children, may struggle with “Songs and Cereal” or “Letters and Book Review” because the lack of relationships in these videos may create a “horns” effect and cause them to look for evidence to confirm their feelings. The challenges are often interesting as well, they might say that seeing a cluttered room is challenging. This tells me that their lens may need some adjustment to consider interactions, not room design. Emotional reactions are a great place to help participants disconnect their feelings from the behaviors they see in our videos.
As they share, I jot down their answers, making note of their job or experience, so that I can share any relevant experiences in my career path, which also builds connection. When someone struggles with a “feeling” I can check in, remind him or her of this exercise to help him or her gain perspective and shift his or her focus to behavioral evidence.
What icebreakers have worked for you during training?
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
As a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) instructor, the sections of any given two-hour session may feel, at times, very goal driven. These sections titled "Know," "See," and "Do” are interconnected. In particular, it is possible to consider "Do" within "Know," and "See." When an instructor supports in-the-moment experiences that connect new knowledge to current practice, they make the CLASS dimensions more relevant to the educators' daily work. But how can we infuse more “Do” into “Know” and “See?” First, let's re-cap what happens in each section.
I have a confession to make. Recently, I used vacation time to stay home and watch Season 6 of The Walking Dead. I know, I know. How could I have let myself miss a whole season? Oh, and I feel a little bad about taking the time off from work too, but this was very nearly an emergency! I mean it was only weeks before Season 7 of the season premiere. I had to do something. Don’t judge.
While I was watching, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu. I felt like I had actually walked through a herd of zombies, but couldn’t quite place why it felt so familiar. Then it hit me—I had unknowingly created zombie-like participants during at least two of my previous CLASS trainings.