Imagine that you are a child walking into a classroom for the first time. Think about how you might feel. Are you scared? Confused? Excited?
What happens in those early moments in the classroom has the potential to shape your feelings about being there – and perhaps about school in general. What if the teacher is busy with other children and doesn’t notice you? What if you start to cry and the teacher tells you that you’re too old to cry? How might you feel about having to go back the next day?
To think about this a bit more, let’s look at Julia, a three-year-old who is about to start her first day of school. As she walked to school with her mom, she was feeling pretty excited, but once they arrived at the building, she started to feel anxious. She looked around the room and saw lots of children – far more than she was used to at her family child care home where she had been for the past two years. Julia held onto her mother’s hand tightly. She wasn’t sure she wanted to go in.
One of the teachers noticed her hesitation and came right over. She got down to Julia’s eye level and talked to her in a calm, soothing voice. She told that she was glad that Julia had come to school and told her about the other children and the kinds of things she could do at school. The teacher smiled at Julia and told her that she would help her meet new friends and make sure that she would know what to do. After several minutes, Julia took the teacher’s hand and walked over to join a group of children who were playing Duck, Duck, Goose, one of her favorite games.
By coming over and talking to Julia, the teacher set the stage for a positive teacher-child relationship. Those small interactions told Julia that the teacher was aware of her feelings and was there to support her, leading to sense of security that allowed her to say good-bye to her mom and explore her surroundings.
Imagine that Julia’s teacher also helped her find her cubby and put away her things (while excitedly telling her how much she like the new backpack that Julia had picked out for this special day). Then imagine that the classroom was prepared with interesting and engaging materials and that the teacher joined Julia as she explored the new environment, encouraging her to play with other children. She also made sure that Julia knew exactly what was going to happen during the day, so she wasn’t surprised when they went to another room or activity. Thanks to her teacher’s support, Julia learned when they were going to get a snack, use the bathroom, and play outside! Imagine that all children have such a positive experience on their first day at a new school!
Teaching is all about relationships. Relationships are built upon moment-to-moment interactions, those shared experiences and forming of expectations for how someone will act towards others. Will they be responsive or dismissive, connected and warm, or scary and unpredictable?
Effective interactions, as defined by the CLASS, help build relationships that support children's development. We can measure the quality of those interactions and provide support to build stronger and more positive connections. If you'd like to learn more about how CLASS supports interactions in classrooms and improves student outcomes, reach out!
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Can we talk about structure? When CLASS® entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including state and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural, which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
The CLASS® tool’s Instructional Learning Format (ILF) dimension refers to the ways educators enhance engagement. We all know students who are engaged in school regardless of who their teacher is just simply because that is who they are. But, this dimension examines the ways in which educators expand involvement by using a variety of modalities, strategies, and providing hands-on opportunities. This dimension is not about the actual learning that may or may not take place, but rather the “hooks” and methods an educator uses to “set the stage” for learning.
The frameworks that power great interactions with children can be applied to relationships with our coworkers. In our webinar Staying In-Sync: Creating Positive Interactions Between Teachers, panelists Kate Cline, Professional Services Manager at Teachstone, and Deidre Harris, Educational Consultant at Team Agreements, led a lively discussion about how to foster healthy relationships among your staff. They identified a few key areas that make up the foundation of this work. Let’s get into it!