The lens through which you look is key, because your mentee will feel where you are coming from – whether you state your perspective or not. Whenever I coach, I observe, get a base line, and from there we start to build skills. My frame of reference is that each person is expanding. A while back, Cheri Moring wrote in her blog about a metaphor we have used which says that every teacher has a tool belt and our goal is to put more tools in that tool belt. One teacher may start with 5 tools, another may start with 20, but we are continually building skills, never judging the tool belt for the number of tools it has.
This only builds resistance, if the teacher feels she is being judged. Rather, I ask her to continually add to who she is. Often when I coach, I draw a rectangle and say, “Inside this rectangle is who you know yourself to be up to this point.” The teacher may say she has great classroom organization, loves science, does not like art, loves working with difficult children, has judgments about some of her parents, thinks she is not really creative, but is good at analysis, and on and on. Once we talk about these things we write them in the rectangle. I draw an “X” a little outside the rectangle and draw a little larger rectangle that includes the original rectangle and I say, “You never have to change who you know yourself to be. We are just adding a bit more room now for you to express in, to move in, as a teacher. Then, drawing larger and larger additional rectangles, I say, “As we go through the coaching process, we will be creating more and more room for you to express yourself in, adding teaching skills and strategies that will allow you to be a “bigger,” more expansive teacher with more tools in your tool belt."
You are a space holder, a context holder, and in that space, you hold an idea—no matter what the problem or issue seems to be, the two of you will come up with whatever idea or resource is needed to solve the problem or handle the issue. The power of your shared focus, intention, and attention can create miracles.
As a coach, our first priority is to create a safe space that both teacher and coach can work in. No one makes changes, when feeling judged and unaccepted. Once a teacher feels safe, she can be truthful about strengths she may have and also about change that is needed. The mentee will be able to speak her truth and brainstorm ideas for expansion and change.
Connect your mentees with resources, ideas, new CLASS strategies, and much more. With a coach’s guidance, teachers plan, add ideas, build skills, etc.
I love the meaning of the root word in education—educare. This word means “to draw out.” We are never just trying to “put into” a teacher’s mind what we see is “missing.” Instead, we trust the process. We trust that together the coach and mentee have an amazing knowledge and experience base from which to draw inspiration. This includes the common language and the huge shared knowledge base that CLASS provides. In the coaching relationship, we build rapport and have conversations with many feedback loops and active listening. We brainstorm, plan, create, and produce together.
In summary, never look for deficits. Work from a strength-based perspective. Start with a baseline and add to that body of knowledge and skills. Create a space in which your mentees can expand who they are as teachers, so that the two of you together can “walk in Bigness.”
Rhonda LaFountaine, MS, has successfully implemented CLASS coaching in numerous urban and rural Head Start programs throughout Nevada for over six years. Ms. LaFountaine also teaches human development and family studies and early childhood education courses at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, NV. She previously owned and operated an early childhood center focused on interactive play-based learning and exploratory studies. Her research interests include working with gifted children, CLASS mentor coaching, working with children with disabilities, and testing curriculum. As a CLASS coach, she has provided team and individualized coaching and targeted training resulting in consistent increases in quality instructional practices and improved CLASS scores across programs. Rhonda has a BS in Child Development, a BS in Elementary Education and an MS in Child Development. You can reach Rhona at email@example.com.
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There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
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. We know that 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.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
As an educator, you’re busy. Your time is being split by competing priorities, from managing students’ needs, meeting your program’s goals, and communicating with parents. While you’re juggling your work, it can be difficult to keep learning about important ways to improve your daily teaching practice. Teachstone is here to help!
Many teachers and leaders associate CLASS® with preschool. And we get it! It’s used in early childhood classrooms across the country, including Head Start programs, and it’s been more important than ever for young children as they begin to return to in-person learning.
But the principles of CLASS - Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, Instructional Support - are important for children well beyond Pre-K. The ever-increasing research base shows that interactions matter for children’s social-emotional and academic development. That’s why CLASS is organized to support children from infancy to high school with the developmentally appropriate interactions that drive learning - and why K-12 leaders are embracing CLASS in their schools.