A few months ago, I gave a training to a group of early childhood professionals over the Infant CLASS. As I was going over one of the indicators titled, Awareness and Cue Detection, I read the high range description on the face-page:
“Teachers consistently physically orient toward the majority of the infants and regularly look around the room. Teachers continuously acknowledge infants whether or not they are making bids for attention, by talking to them or giving them a nod or smile.”
After I was done, my group of participants almost collectively said, “So the “good” babies have to be noticed too?”
I smiled and replied, “Tell me more, what do you mean by “good”?
One participant continued, “The “good” babies have to get called on too. You know, the “good” babies that don’t cry or fuss for long periods of time, are easily soothed, usually calm or might have a quiet cry.” The group laughed and nodded in agreement.
Different members of the group began to share their experiences in the classroom both as infant teachers and as coaches. Several of them recounted how the children who cried often received more attention than the children who were calm. Usually, the calm child would receive interactions only when it was time to be fed or time to change their diaper. The participants stated that they hardly saw teachers interact with the “good” babies because they didn’t show cues that they needed any attention.
Both as a teacher and as a coach, I have spent a lot of time in infant classrooms. What is fascinating about the whole experience of my observations is that the teachers never ignored any infant on purpose. I realized there were many times when the “good” baby got ignored in my care, not on purpose but because of the demands of 10 babies to 2 teachers. It’s so much easier to tend to the infant that is crying or hungry, than it is to interact with the child sitting quietly on a mat.
One of the aspects that makes CLASS effective is that it is based in research. We know that when a child receives quality interactions in the early years, it leads to better developmental outcomes. We know how important quality interactions are, and we know that we can begin to see “gaps” in the infant stage of life. We must find ways to be intentional in ensuring that every child receives the attention they deserve, whether they are making bids for attention or not.
So what does this mean for the infants in the classroom? This means that all children should be acknowledged, regardless of what they’re doing or how they’re acting. All babies have different temperaments, just as adults do. The CLASS tool is being in tune and aware of everyone in the classroom—no matter what.
As an infant classroom teacher, you know that talking to babies is important. For instance, you tell the infants in your care what they are looking at (“You see the new block basket on the shelf!”). You label objects (“You have the red ball!”). And you describe events that take place in the classroom (“The tray just fell off the table! That scared you.”). These are all examples of talking with babies. Why, then, can it be so challenging to do this consistently in the classroom?
In this vlog, you'll hear an overview of Teacher Sensitivity and Facilitated Exploration at the Infant level. Mary-Margaret introduces Responsive Caregiving and how to improve interactions by looking at an infant's cues that the child may be trying to communicate a need as well as ways to support an infant's exploration.
Facilitating a brand new training can come with a mix of emotions like anxiety, nerves, and excitement. I recently experienced every one of those emotions and then some as I prepared to deliver a new training. I wanted to ensure that I learned the new content to fidelity, so I spent hours reviewing and studying. I viewed the training videos. I prepared some awesome reflective questions to ask my participants. I brainstormed activities to engage the group, and I rehearsed my PowerPoint slides. My facilitator binder and manuals have never seen so many highlighter marks!
With preparation complete, it was go-time! I put on my “CLASSes” and knew that if I focused on the importance of interactions, it would all come together. And it did.
When training on the Infant and Toddler CLASS, the importance of cue detection can’t be stressed enough to your participants. Infants and toddlers depend on a sensitive and responsive adult to recognize the messages or cues that they are sending. These "bids for attention" are the way then that children communicate, essentially asking adults to respond in a way that meets each child’s individual needs. And whether we are coding or caregiving, starting with cues is the way to go!