It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. Intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
“WOW! What a great job!” says teacher Mary to Abby, who is building with blocks. Abby just succeeded in balancing a big, long block on top of the walls she built with smaller blocks. Abby has been working hard on this structure for at least 20 minutes, a long time in the life of a 4-year-old.
I was well steeped in the Pre-K tool when I attended my first Toddler CLASS training and I remember feeling pretty confident. The Dimensions were fairly similar to pre-K, and I know toddlers and toddler classrooms. What could possibly go wrong?
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? One behavior stood out: everyone spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly (sometimes on the separate piece of bread, sometimes right on top of the peanut butter; some use the same knife, some use a new knife, etc.), but in my sampling group the jelly always comes second.
As we know, teachers often struggle with Instructional Support—and the focus of their professional development often lands here. While Instructional Support is worth improving, it's also important to remember that ALL interactions can affect child outcomes.
Kelly Barrett, our featured teacher of the month, was such a joy to talk to. Here’s what her nominator shared about her:
“Kelly, has an exceptional connection with her students. She has the ability to mesmerize them with a story or song, and understands the meaning of learning through fun. Her appreciation of CLASS can be seen on any given day.”
“Lacey was born a teacher, she has it in her blood. And CLASS didn’t phase her. She found it as a way to make her teaching better.”
That’s how my interview with Pam Miller and Lacey Hetzel Austin started. And over the course of our interview, I understood what Pam meant. Lacey works as the pre-K teacher at Hathaway High School, a pre-K-12th grade school in Jennings, Louisiana, a rural town in Jefferson Davis Parish. Lacey's classroom has consistently received high scores across her CLASS Observations including 6s and 7s in Instructional Support. I needed to learn more.