As they sat attentively in front of a laptop screen watching a video of Patti reading with one-and-a-half-year-old Jack, everything began to click. Suddenly, Sue’s coaching made perfect sense. She understood how the small changes they had implemented over the past nine months had improved Jack’s learning.
The video continued to play, and Patti could clearly see how Jack was much more engaged. He was attentive, smiling and interested — leaning on the edge of his small plastic chair toward the book as they turned the pages. When they came to a picture of a dog, Patti pointed and said “doggy” encouraging him to say the word. As she repeated the word, Jack replied “arf, arf.” She responded with a smile and said to Jack, “that’s right! That’s the sound a dog makes.”
While, this may seem like a simple interaction, Jack’s language had been very limited and verbal communication in the classroom was almost nonexistent. Before working with Sue, the scene would have looked much different. Jack would have been restless and combative, fighting Patti’s attempt to read with him. The seemingly simple tips Sue had taught — sitting close, making eye contact, joining children in their activities, listening and watching for the verbal and nonverbal cues — had paid off.
Seeing the improvements, Patti commented, “When you respond to even small actions or words the children do grow and learn." Sue assured her that even though his language was limited, he was communicating with her; and the more she responded to his non-verbal overtures with language, the more he would begin to use language. Clearly proud of the progress they had made, Patti shared that she was excited to put the information she had learned to use with her own children.
As the conference was wrapping up, Patti said, "If someone had told me three or four years ago that I would be teaching toddlers and enjoying it, I would have laughed at them." Surprised by this comment, Sue asked, "How did you get to this position?" Patti responded, "It was a job. I didn't really like kids. I didn't dislike them; I just didn't see myself working with them. I really didn't know what I was doing. I just followed what other people did with the children."
Teaching our youngest learners should never be just a job. It’s far too important. That’s why The Family Conservancy is providing coaching services to early education teachers in Kansas and Missouri. Through a curriculum called My Teaching Partner, coaches work one-on-one with individual teachers to improve teacher-child interactions. Teachers submit and coaches review video of a classroom activity every two weeks. TFC coaches then discuss their observations with the teacher. Together, they set new goals using an observational tool called the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS).