Early Learning Highlights from Week of the Young Child
In honor of the Week of the Young Child, I am excited to shine a light on the beautiful work happening in one Pre-K classroom in East Palo Alto, CA. I have been working with three teachers in Room 4 as their instructional coach for over a year. During that time the school has undergone many changes, including the addition of a new director, introduction of new curriculum, and for these particular teachers – a new member of their teaching team. With all that going on, I observed teachers who truly wanted the best for their students and to be part of a strong teaching team.
Despite their best intentions, when I first met them, the team was not working together or communicating regularly. I would walk in and see three people working independently of one another and often times giving children opposing directions, if any at all. As a result the children were not being engaged consistently nor did they know what to expect of their teachers or environment. The students’ behavior and inconsistent use of language reflected the state of the classroom. And while there was a lesson plan in place, all teachers did not seem to have a clear role in its implementation.
In order to address the challenges this team was facing, as a coach, I felt it was important to connect to not only their individual goals but also to determine what the team goals were. I prompted the group to ask themselves what kind of learning experience they wanted to be able to provide their students and what was needed from each team member to achieve this. While it was evident that each teacher wanted to provide the best learning experience for the children, it was also clear that there was no shared vision of how they could achieve this.
To create this vision, I supported the team as they renewed their commitment to each other and to the children by opening the lines of communication, determining clear expectations, and providing consistency. We began by having regular team meetings where collaborative lesson planning took place. The team soon decided to use these meetings to address individual needs of the children, and decipher the role of each individual within the team to ensure that the children were getting these needs met. As we kept to our meeting structure the team began to hold each other accountable and encourage each other to follow through.
With individual coaching paired with professional development accompanying the team support, the team now engages in common goal setting, regular coaching cycles and intentional planning. As a result, data we are collecting is showing that children understand the rules and expectations of the classroom, are demonstrating increased empathy to one another and are engaged in all areas of the classroom.
Although there is still a lot of work to be done, I am extremely proud of this team and am honored to celebrate their success with them. While there is no final outcome yet, the success I find in this group of teachers has been their willingness to embrace and accept the need for change for the benefit of their students. As the room 4 team continues to apply and implement new ideas to make their current classroom routine stronger and sustainable, I have no doubt their students will continue to excel and reap the benefits of their teachers’ dedication.
Bio: Kaytie Brissenden-Smith: Associate Program Consultant with New Teacher Center coaching and delivering PD to Pre-K teachers in the Ravenswood School District. For over 12 years I worked as a Preschool teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as in administration in the early childhood field. I attended Mills College in Oakland with a double major in Child Development & Latin American Studies & Literature. My passion for language, literacy, and equity are the driving forces behind the work I do today with teachers and students.