DEAR MISS MATTERS:
I work with preschool classes in tribal areas. I regularly use the CLASS observation tool, but I’m worried about scoring Positive Climate while being culturally sensitive. If teachers and children are not making eye contact, would this lower the PC score?
Oh, if only Miss Matters had a dollar for every time she heard this question, she would be able to retire!
The CLASS is not intended as a measure of cultural sensitivity. Yet we know that the CLASS measure has been validated in classrooms where diverse cultures are represented. We also know that multiple studies suggest that children benefit from high-quality CLASS interactions, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The key here is in understanding what behaviors are respectful. In some cultures, forcing eye contact would be uncomfortable for a child and would not be demonstrating respect. But eye contact is only one of several markers of respect and it is not required for a teacher to demonstrate respect. The CLASS manual offers several additional markers of respect including using a warm, calm voice and using respectful language. The presence of these other markers would allow a teacher to receive a high rating in Positive Climate if eye contact were not a cultural norm. Note, however, that if the teacher forced eye contact in this case, they may receive a lower rating in Teacher Sensitivity.
Calvary City Academy & Preschool closed on March 13, along with most programs in Florida. While closed, we had much to prepare for reopening. While children were home, we prepared packets to send home, met with children virtually, and even hosted things like field day, spirit week, and graduation virtually! Even with those successes, we were so happy to be able to return to being in-person when we reopened in June. Since June, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s what’s working for us:
Across the country and around the globe, schools/programs will soon reopen after extended closures due to COVID-19. Those that have remained open are instituting new health and safety practices.. Localities will determine whether to provide in-person, online, or hybrid teaching. Regardless of the model that schools/programs adopt, classrooms will look different now and for the foreseeable future.
Across the nation, teachers learning about CLASS are asked to narrate their actions and sportscast their children’s experiences in order to support and encourage healthy language development. Hearing this, many teachers may wonder, “Will people think I’m crazy if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for teachers to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.