One Sunflower

It’s not the what, it’s the how

on June 17, 2010
I had oral surgery on Monday and it has forced me into a week of extreme down time – not something I do very often or even enjoy.  My face looks quite altered; my son says its like the “face goo” app on an Iphone.  (I don’t have an Iphone but the description sounds appropriate.)  So I’m not leaving the house much except to take the dog across the street or visit my parents for an afternoon of company.   

Being this sedentary has its perks.  The voice that often whispers in my head  “you should be ….” is easily silenced.  I don’t have much energy or inclination to do much more than knit, read, stitch and write.  There isn’t a lot on my plate right now but the few things that are there are intriguing to explore.  (And since I’m not able to eat much right now, this metaphor makes my stomach growl!)   

Current main dish:    

Last Friday I spent a 6 hour day with colleagues getting prepared to become “reliable” in using the CLASS observation tool. CLASS stands for Classroom Assessment Scoring System and you can find out more about it at this website.     

The tool was developed because of these findings: (copied from a hand-out that Dr. Marilyn Chu of Western Washington University gave us)     

  1. “Teacher-child interactions are the key ingredients of a high-quality early educations classroom.”    
  2. “Standardized, reliable, and valid assessments of teacher-child interactions do exist.” 
  3. “Professional development for early childhood educators that targets these teacher-child interactions leads to improvements for teachers and children.” 

The hypothesis from these findings is: “Professional development requires extensive opportunities for observation of teacher-child interactions and individualized feedback about these interactions.”    

Becoming reliable as an observer means that I’ve been watching lots of video clips and scoring interactions between teachers and students in 10 different categories: positive climate, negative climate, teacher sensitivity, regard for student perspective, behavior management, productivity, instructional learning format, concept development, quality of feedback and language modeling.  There are prescribed indicators in each category and instructions to guide scoring.  Reliability means that I am able to give scores in these domains with 80% accuracy compared to the professionals who developed the tool.  I did pretty well in my practice run last week, I’ll be taking the test tomorrow.    

What interests me about this tool and this process is the emphasis on teacher-child interaction and climate in the classroom.  It isn’t the what of the teaching, it’s the how.  As Dr. Chu stated in our training, “You may not like what is being taught, or even feel it is developmentally appropriate,  it is the interactions between the adults and students and the peer interactions to pay attention to.”  I know from my brief experience in the spring of 2009 when Dr. Chu spent a day in my classroom using this tool that the question in my head often shifted from what are you hoping to teach to how are you being in relationship.     

I am looking forward to paying attention to that voice more and strengthening my classroom practice and those of my colleagues through peer mentoring using the tool.    

Fruit and vegetable options:    

This learning is folding in nicely with my reading of the book,  Enthusiastic and Engaged Learners: Approaches to Learning in the Early Childhood Classroom by Marilou Hyson.  The goal of this book is the help teachers support positive approaches to learning for children.  I’m excited to explore the questions the author poses for reflection and improvement of practice.  I would like to lead a book study with my early childhood colleagues next year.    

Other items on my plate include outlining plans for our summer school program – this year it will be for 1st – 3rd graders.  I worked in the program for 2 years but this year I’m more of an advisor to get the ball rolling.  We call our summer school program “camp” and usually the kids tie-dye t-shirts the first day and we do some projects they don’t ordinarily get to do during the school year – all woven into a typical summer school curriculum focused on maintaining math and literacy skills.   Since our school is hoping to do some work with “Habits of Mind” next year, I’ve tried to include some discussion and heightened awareness of a few of those in the curriculum as well.    

I’ve still got work to do on our Preschool Literacy notebook for the school district but the skeleton is largely there.  I’ve also been asked to be a guest speaker at our Early HeadStart summer socializations.  The parents and children come together every other week and there is time for parent education and play.  I’ve been asked to speak about social emotional development so I’ll be thinking about how to do this with parents of infants and toddlers instead of preschoolers.    

Bread and Butter (love this staple!):    

Summer is also a time for me to stretch and try new things.  I’ve been asked to do “Time with the Children” at my church.  I’ve taught Sunday school but haven’t really been upfront in my church much so I’m thinking about that.     


And my sister sent photos of a crazy quilt that is tugging at my creativity sleeve and I just might have to dabble a bit in that direction.    

But as much as I like having choice and time, I will do better with some structure to my summer.  Hopefully my face will calm down soon and I can begin my days with a good walk – in public.     



2 responses to “It’s not the what, it’s the how

  1. Juliann says:

    I want to come and dine with you! That CLASS program sounds so very interesting and what a great concept to give teachers time to practice. We need so much more of those opportunities.
    Four more days of paperwork and meetings and I will be composing my own summer menu.
    Hope you are feeling better.

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