If you’re a Teachstone blog-reader, you may have noticed that we focus on being “strengths-based” instructional coaching all the time. But sometimes it’s equally healthy to reflect on the stuff that didn’t go so well so we can avoid it next time. (By the way, if you’re looking for something purely strengths-based, Gina Gates recently wrote this fantastic post for the myTeachstone blog on ways to support resistant teachers using an online platform.)
This post is about what not to do. These are the seven deadly sins of taking teacher learning online:
...or assuming “when you build it, they will come.”
Purchasing an online platform, like myTeachstone, is a great first step in investing in quality online professional development for your teachers—but simply buying the platform won’t get you far. Just like any other program initiative, you need to work with all levels of your organization to establish buy-in, generate excitement, and reward engagement.
...or seeing other CLASS implementations and wishing you had what they had.
Learning from other implementations is smart. Drooling over the resources you wish you had is not. Rather than being envious of other implementations, learn all you can about them and emulate what makes sense; also, be sure to dive deeply into the resources that you do have at your disposable. For example, if you have myTeachstone, there is a good chance you have not taken advantage of all the resources or features already available to you.
...or getting quickly frustrated when your teachers do not immediately take advantage of online PD opportunities.
Getting angry rarely results in anything positive. Rather than getting mad, get active! Find creative ways to get teachers involved, knowledgeable, and supported when implementing a new online initiative. You might find that they have barriers you would not have considered—maybe the email inviting them to the online system was flagged as SPAM in your email servers. In a case like this, the fix might be easier than you think!
...or trying to focus on too many initiatives at one time.
If you are reading this post, I would be willing to bet that CLASS is just one of many things you are focusing on in your program. That is normal; interactions are just one facet making up strong early childhood systems. However, when taking on new initiatives (such as launching an online teacher learning system), be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Space out new initiatives so that teachers and coaches can focus on learning how to use one system at a time; it’s better to do one thing well than to do many things poorly.
...or spending your energy wishing for fancy bells and whistles.
As with any online application, it’s easy to spend time focusing on what it can’t do, rather than taking advantage of what it can. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re a myTeachstone user, we want your feedback! It’s what keeps our platform fresh and useful. But be careful about lusting after fancy features when you could spend your time becoming an expert at using the features already available to you.
...or not bothering to monitor reporting and data trends.
When you take teacher learning online, chances are, you’ll be able to access lots of data that has never been so easily available to you before. It is really easy to become overwhelmed by all this data, which often leads administrators to ignore the reports altogether. Don’t be a sloth! Work with your account manager and stakeholders in your organization early on to establish goals, and then decide exactly which reports you need and how often you need them so you have a plan for evaluating the success of your implementation.
...or expecting CLASS scores to shoot up to 7s overnight.
It can be really exciting to move to an online learning platform. All of a sudden teachers have on-demand access to coaching, high-quality PD resources, and observation data. But remember that behavior change is incremental, no matter how fancy your online platform is. Don’t be greedy; instead, celebrate incremental successes and the indisputable evidence that even small changes in CLASS scores mean big impact for kids.
Are you thinking about moving teachers to an online learning experience? What concerns or questions do you have about the process?
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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.
Imagine classrooms filled with children who are comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas, and working cooperatively with their peers. Can this become the norm in classrooms across the nation? Yes, because this is what consistent and effective Teacher Sensitivity (TS) cultivates in the classroom. Research tells us that teachers who are aware of and respond to each child, supportively facilitate the ability of all children in the classroom to explore actively and learn.
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?
Educators 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 may wonder, “Will people think I’m weird if I start talking to myself in the classroom?”
The answer is no. Self- and parallel talk are beneficial strategies for educators to engage in because they strengthen language rich environments and enhance vocabulary development, all while supporting effective relationship building between teachers and children.