As a former teacher and teacher educator, I deeply understand the tremendous impact that a high-quality teacher can have on the lives of children and their families. But I also understand how difficult the job of teaching can be every hour of every day of every week of every year. So many teachers enter and stay in the classroom without the ongoing professional development they need to stay current with research and strategies that can help them perform their craft to its fullest potential. Even those who are provided professional development by their school district or program often experience stale, “one and done” workshops that are not integrated into a larger learning curriculum and that are, at best, dry and uninspiring.
My school district rarely provided professional development that was applicable to me as a preschool special education teacher or the children with whom I worked. I sat through hours of workshops like “Teaching Geometry to Third Graders” or “Influencing the Rate of Reading Fluency,” which—while important topics for some—were not helpful or motivating to me when my children were struggling with single word utterances and following a picture schedule. I longed for professional development that inspired me to grow as a learner while teaching me new concepts, strategies, and techniques. I longed for professional development that reenergized me and reminded me why I loved teaching and pursued the profession to begin with: so that I could make a difference for all children and families.
Six years ago, I found my way to Teachstone, an organization committed to unlocking the potential of great teaching in one of the most neglected groups of teachers—early childhood educators. Over the years we have grown our portfolio of CLASS-based professional development solutions to include MyTeaching Partner (MTP), Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI), and myTeachstone. Until now, we have grown our research-based professional development offerings without outside partners. Today, I am excited to announce our partnership with Sesame Workshop, the educational nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, to engage teachers in a whole new way.
It all started with a conversation I had with Akimi Gibson, Vice President and Education Publisher at Sesame Learning, at NAEYC PDI over two years ago. Over lunch and lemonade, we discussed our common challenge of how to best empower teachers to take their professional development to the next level. Many lunches and conversations later, our partnership was solidified to do just that.
Our partnership combines Sesame’s knowledge of child development and research-based strategies for meeting the needs of individual learners with Teachstone’s expertise in professional development solutions targeted to the individual teacher. Together we have co-produced a professional development series for teachers in myTeachstone, our online CLASS implementation service that pairs classroom observation data with personalized professional development. The courses provide teachers with proven, everyday strategies for improving teaching effectiveness in courses that focus on social and emotional development, mathematics, and language and literacy. What I like most about the courses is that they provide engaging aha moments for teachers to connect with the content and tie that learning back to the work they are doing in their classrooms. And best of all, teachers are reminded of the “why” they entered teaching: the series features media procured from Sesame’s vast library that triggers memories of when they were young learners themselves.
Receive timely updates delivered straight to your inbox.
After a couple of very challenging years, bringing people together feels even more significant than ever before. That’s why we are excited to bring people together again to build connections, share ideas, and inspire each other at our 8th annual InterAct CLASS® Summittaking place in Miami, Florida, April 18-19, 2023.
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.
If you've ever been through a CLASS Observation training, you are probably familiar with the graphic below. Research tells us that improving teacher-child interactions is a process that includes many pieces.
The first step is to identify a teacher’s strengths and opportunities for growth, which can be done through a CLASS observation. Once you have this data, you can share it with teachers through a formal report, a face-to-face conference, or a feedback session. You’re off to a great start, but now what?
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!