Several times in the past few years, I’ve had conversations with colleagues about teachers at the high end of the CLASS scale. It’s very rare to see a teacher score in the high range across multiple domains, and especially in Instructional Support. It’s a bit more common to see a teacher who gets 6s and 7s in Emotional Support and Classroom Organization, but low/mid or mid-range scores in Instructional Support.
So people have asked me, “What would a teacher look like who scored sevens in all CLASS dimensions*? Is that even possible? Wouldn’t that be overwhelming for children across a whole school day?”
I watched a teacher (who is now one of our staff members) in her classroom during center time, while children played at tables and with colored blocks in the block area...and I would have rated those interactions in the high range. What did it look like? It was a very calm classroom with a warm, calm, active teacher. The children transitioned straight into centers and quickly got engaged in activities. Their behavior was so good that the behavior management was nearly invisible. The teacher monitored the classroom and went from center to center, asking children a mix of questions that expanded their engagement, probed their thinking, got them talking, and gently pushed them to analyze and reason. Children approached her and included her in their play. I remember thinking the first time I saw it that she was a very special educator.
I don’t know if that was a typical day for her, or if the first few weeks of school would have looked so well-ordered. I don’t know how she handled those pent-up-energy days when kids are just bursting at the seams. But I don’t think a full day in her classroom would have been overwhelming or overstimulating.
What was at work? Children were given a lot of autonomy to choose activities that interested them, and spent much of their time working independently and with peers. Although the teacher was constantly engaged with children at a very high level, she moved from group to group and went with the flow of children’s activities, so her involvement felt natural and not intrusive.
I think intrusive is a key word here. I can imagine teachers scoring high on Instructional Support in ways that are intrusive and overwhelming (although I’ve never seen it). There is research on intrusive parenting and the negative effects it can have on child development. However, a teacher like that would score lower on Teacher Sensitivity, Regard for Student Perspectives, and possibly Instructional Learning Formats—so he or she wouldn’t be an “all 7s” teacher.
In general, there are times of day when it is hard to get all 7s—during hand washing and getting ready for nap, for example. But that doesn’t mean that an all-7s teacher would be too much for children, especially if cognitive stimulation is paired with sensitivity, warmth, and calm. I would love to hear from others, though. Do you know any “all 7s”? What do their classrooms look like? What are the pros and cons?
*Of course, they mean 7s in all dimensions except Negative Climate, and a 1 for NC.
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
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.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.