Recently, at the InterAct conference in Austin, we presented the parallel process of CLASS in 50 incredibly fast minutes. We had fun putting together a presentation that was interactive and that modeled as many of the dimensions, indicators, and behavioral markers as we could. In fact, we gave the participants a score sheet so they could rate us—a take off on the CLASS score sheet.
It was fun, but we were also serious about the effect that it has had on our lives. The complexity of the CLASS tool that we use to observe teachers is a standard for us to live by in our own work, and has even infiltrated our personal lives.
The parallel process is modeling the CLASS indicators and behavioral markers while training, coaching, or using CLASS in other ways. It's not just looking for CLASS evidence in others, but also in ourselves.
Here are two blog posts that help explain the parallel process. You can find more by doing a search on parallel process on the Teachstone website.
So, how can you use the parallel process in your trainings and coaching sessions? It all involves taking those same behavior markers and applying them to what you're doing. Here are a few examples:
1. No Parallel Process Yet
You're a new trainer/coach/observer and you're in a survival state, trying hard to get in all the content, and remember the three Domains, 10 Dimensions, 42 Indicators, and 123 Behavioral Markers!
2. Dawning of Awareness
You've survived the first few trainings/coaching events, are feeling pretty good, and starting to see that there is more to CLASS than meets the eye. But what and how?
You realize incorporating all the indicators and behavioral markers is a lot for teachers to accomplish, but so important for children. If you think about it, they are the same things WE should be doing as trainers and coaches!
4. Practicing What We Preach
You figure out trying new skills is easier at some times than at others (just like for teachers). For example: time constraints for how interactive we can be hamper our ability to have a high regard for student perspectives. Sometimes there simply isn't time. This is humbling, and helps our empathy and effectiveness with teachers.
5. The Parallel Process is a Lifetime Acheivement
You know the struggle to be highly engaging in a way that enhances the learning experience for others is an ongoing trial and error process. Some days it’s amazing how much better we are at our jobs and other days you are discouraged. Even on the hard days, you find that you have a newly defined quality standard, and it’s about interactions with others. It’s not so much the “what,” it’s more about the “how.”
Now that you have a better sense as to what we mean when we talk about the parallel process, can you think of ways to incorporate the indicators of CLASS into your daily routine? How would you use it as a coach? How about if you’re a parent? A partner? A sibling? You get the picture—share your thoughts in the comments below.
Curry Ander has a hand in many aspects of the CLASS system, as one of the original Staff Trainers and a Coach Specialist for the MyTeachingPartner coaching project. Along with Double Coding and support, the occasional blog post, a trip out to the Navajo Reservation to meet her coaches, and an edit here and there, Curry keeps going and learning, and learning and going.
Ellen Cairns is a Pre-K Assessment Coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Education. One of her roles is expanding the use of the CLASS in Vermont. She is also a recent Teachstone Affiliate Trainer for Pre-K and K-3, and a former elementary school teacher. She is excited to be back supporting teachers’ professional development for the state of Vermont and helping improve outcomes for children.
In the wake of the widespread civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd, the national conversation about the inequities in the educational opportunities provided white students and students of color has been amplified. Due to racial and socioeconomic segregation, Black students, and other students of color, are more likely to attend poorly funded schools. EdBuild, a non-profit focused on fair and equitable school funding, reports that high poverty school districts that predominantly enroll children of color receive on average, $1,600 less per student than the national average. By their calculations, there is a $23,000,000,000 gap between funding for schools that primarily serve high poverty Black students and those that predominantly serve white students. Schools that predominantly serve high poverty white students, only receive $1440 less per student (EdBuild, 2019).
I recognize and admit to having a chip on my shoulder about the field of early childhood education - and, at times, disbelief that others may not see that period of time as the power-packed years in our developmental timeline which can lay the groundwork and set the course for much of the rest of our lives.
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.
Since the coronavirus has disrupted many of our in-person plans, you might be trying to figure out how you can transition in-person coaching to online coaching. Online coaching can open a number of doors for coaches and teachers that might not be an option in face-to-face work.