Today's post is the fifth in our "Tips for Enhancing Your Training Skills" blog series. In these posts, we will delve deeply into the fundamentals of essential training skills. This blog series, filled with tips from our training team’s collective years of experience delivering CLASS observation trainings to diverse audiences from around the country and the globe, will provide you with tangible ideas about how to be a more successful trainer.
Think back to your initial CLASS training. For some of you it was years ago, for others it was more recent. Regardless, chances are good that you may have a felt a bit overwhelmed; after all, there are a lot of things to keep track of during a CLASS observation and you only had two days to learn the basics. It can be frustrating and participants may challenge us. Becoming defensive is not going to win you any converts to the CLASS, so it’s best to acknowledge the frustration and limit defensiveness. A simple statement such as, “I understand why you see it that way, but let’s look at our CLASS Manual together to find the information” can go a long way.
So what should you do when someone gets upset about a code and pushes back? Try to ascertain what they are feeling. Do they think that the code should be lower because they don’t like an activity and can think of several ways that the teacher could improve the lesson? If so, remind your participants that an observer simply records what he or she sees. They need to take off their coaches’ hats and focus specifically on the observation. Coaches and supervisors often want to “fix” a problem while they observe. However, the time for “fixing” comes later when we debrief with teachers about the observation and start to plan CLASS-based professional development with them.
Some observers also have a trigger that causes their reaction. For example, in the Pre-K training, many observers identify with Ryan and the repeated directives to go to time out during the Letters and Book Review video. Similarly, in the Infant training, many observers are uncomfortable with how the teacher tries to soothe one child when there is overall infant distress throughout the video Rocking Baby.
Many participants feel that their knowledge or expertise is being challenged, or that the CLASS is some new way to look at classrooms and they feel threatened. It’s important to note that the CLASS is a tool to MEASURE classroom quality. Most of the things that participants note fit somewhere in the measure. As trainers, we need to get our participants into the manual to review the definition of each dimension and explain the indicators and marker so they can see where their evidence fits. The CLASS isn’t pushing new ideas about teaching; it is providing a consistent lens and language that we can all use when talking about what goes on in classrooms.
And then there is all of the background knowledge that we all have about good teaching. It can be hard to let go of our previous lenses and replace them with the CLASS lens. I always reassure my participants that they do not need to forget everything that they know about education to become a CLASS observer. There is validity what they know and believer. However, if they want to become reliable on the CLASS, they may need to put that great information and years of experience aside in order to view things the way that the CLASS does.
In an upcoming post, staff trainer Mary-Margaret Gardiner will explain a strategy that she has successfully used to increase her participants’ objectivity and decrease their bias. In the meanwhile, let us know in the Comment section below: What do you do when someone gets upset about a code and pushes back?
Thank you to Mary Margaret Gardiner for her thoughtful contributions to this post.
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.