Aug 27

Reflections on Pre-K Training Initiative

Posted by Jim Clay '88 in The Alumni Blog on Aug 27, 2014

in Partnership with the NYCDOE

Well, we did it! Twenty facilitators, including myself, have just come off of the high of three full days of training at the Getting Ready of Pre-K: An Institute for Educators at Queens College – August 19-21. What an opportunity to be a part of this endeavor in New York City! We truly felt the excitement of being a part of a movement.

I know there were also 20 facilitators at Brooklyn College too, but we at Queens truly became a community of learners—as I’m sure the folks at Brooklyn did as well. I have rarely felt the level of support from colleagues that I during those three days. Folks were able to share resources and ideas freely, richly, and in detail—as freely as they shared hugs. Our debriefing on the last day was full of stories of connections—connections that lead to learning, growth and transformation, hopefully. More about this later

The participants (and I’m not sure how many there were, but let’s think 20 facilitators with 20-30 in each group) came largely from Queens. My group of 20 had only four who taught for Department of Education (DOE), and the rest taught in community-based organizations (now known as CBECCs). I was fortunate to have in the group one principal of a Catholic school in Brooklyn and a new DOE coordinator. No paraprofessionals in my group but one person moving from para to group leader. Half of my folks came from two schools—so they came as a cohort. That was good for their comfort the first day, but as one person said on day three, “I think I’m learning more from the folks who are not in my school.”

What did I learn about my participants? Most of my teachers were very seasoned—many with more than 10 years of experience. For the most part, I would feel comfortable placing my child in their care. Even when they professed putting in place very tough policies towards parents who might overstep what they thought should be very clear boundaries, I thought they had the children’s best interests at heart. On the other hand I picked up a definite thinness of knowledge about child development and skills at observing children beyond the social/emotional domain, and a lack of knowledge of resources that might sustain them in their work. Clearly they will need professional development on Emotionally Responsive Practice (ERP) that the DOE will offer. Many of the teachers said their schools didn’t train them in discipline/behavior management techniques. And they were quick to point out that their classrooms didn’t look like the model ones in the videos—they experienced much more disruption because of behavior challenges. It seems that some of the supports available to CBECCs don’t get past the executive director down to the teachers’ level.

I feel certain that ECERS is helping them to deliver higher quality education to the children, but they feel it as an outside assault to their identities as teachers and not an aid to do a better job. Of course, one of the benefits of such a training is giving folks a necessary opportunity to vent—and yes they did.

I was also surprised at the lack of technical support teachers felt was available to them. Though some posted observations on on-line observation and assessment tools (like Teaching Strategies Gold), they could not be assured of consistent internet service in their building. And none of them seemed to have the ability to scan a document in order to share the work they were generating in our class.

Well, we at least know some of the areas in which there needs to be improvement in connecting classroom teachers to the support and training available to them.

So what did I learn about myself? Aside from this course, I am no longer doing any training as part of my professional life—I leave it up to the fine consultants I use at my school. So I need to brush up on my facilitation skills. I also learned that though I used the activities in our guidebook and curriculum to help the students get to know each other, I didn’t consistently build on that to create a stronger community of learners. I was more focused on the content than on the relationships. In the future, I would build in more of these activities—each day and even more than once a day. I see more clearly now the emotional/social content of that bond and how it brings about transformation and will change my focus if I were to do this or any other training again. What an opportunity for growth for me!

tagged bscaa, doenyc, getting ready, pre-k
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