Teachers, like all of us, have a limited bank of time and attention. So, it should come as no surprise if they sometimes lose focus on what matters most for kids: interactions.
Teachers don’t lose focus because they don’t want to have positive interactions with children. I’ve yet to meet a teacher who didn’t want to be a positive force in kids’ lives.
But think about the teachers you know. How do they spend their time? How many different things are they asked to attend to in the classroom? Limited time and an excess of competing demands are real barriers for the teachers you support.
In our efforts to support these teachers, few of us can grant them more time or fewer responsibilities. What we can do is help teachers focus the best of their energies on the responsibilities that matter most.
Three steps to focus teachers’ attention on effective interactions:
Why should I do this? Research into how our minds manage our attention has shown that we are more likely to pay attention to the things we find meaningful. Resources like these, and your conversations about them, can help teachers sense greater meaning in their interactions with children.
2. Recommend the article The Toothpaste Theory of Child Development, which offers an analogy to help us discuss how interactions relate to other elements of classroom practice. In this article, co-director of the Fred Rogers Center, Junlei Li, explains that the active ingredient in toothpaste prevents cavities, and the many inactive ingredients, like flavoring, are valuable because they make us more likely to brush our teeth. Similarly, he explains that the active ingredient in ECE is interactions and that inactive ingredients in classrooms “are useful only when they enrich and empower the growth of human interactions between children and adults.”
Why should I do this? If we want teachers to more fully attend to the interactions in their classrooms, we need to help them understand the appropriate role of the many “inactive ingredients” they’re also asked to attend to.
3. Recommend the course Your Favorite Teacher and CLASS. Get to you know more about the teachers you support by talking about their favorite teachers. Elicit their perspectives on how their favorite teacher became effective, encouraging them to think about the likelihood that these teachers improved their practice over the years.
Why should I do this? We want teachers to want to improve their interactions and believe that they can. The course will remind teachers why they want to improve their practice, and you can use your discussion as an opportunity to communicate that CLASS-based research over the last decade has proven that teachers can improve their interactions with children.
Good luck! Let us know how it goes.
Grotzer, Miller, & Lincoln (2011). “Perceptual, Attentional, and Cognitive Heuristics That Interact with the Nature of Science to Complicate Public Understanding of Science.” In Myint Swe Khine (Ed.), Advances of Nature of Science Research (pp. 27-49). New York, NY: Springer.
Mack and I. Rock. (1998). Inattentional Blindness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Grotzer, T. (2012). Learning causality in a complex world: Understandings of consequence. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.
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.
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As coaches, we've all encountered resistant teachers. Resistance to coaching can take many forms. You might encounter a teacher who is direct, making it clear they don't want your help. Or a teacher who is passive, putting off your meetings and recommendations, or acting like they're open to coaching but never actually changing their behavior. While this can be frustrating, you shouldn’t assume the teacher is to blame.