116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Educators are seeing fewer disruptive behaviors in the classroom and improved academic outcomes with the implementation of a new training focused on strengthening the teacher-child relationship.
The training — Teacher-Child Interaction Training-Universal — is a professional development program designed to increase teachers’ confidence in their ability to manage challenging behaviors in their classrooms.
“The greatest impact we can have on kids is the connections we make, but we don’t tell (teachers) how to make those connections,” said Julie King, a school social worker for the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.
King coaches teachers in this method. Coaches visit participating classrooms for about 30 minutes a week to help teachers in their interaction with students. The coach talks to the teacher through an ear bud as they teach. “I’m a bug in their ear,” King said.
The program gives teachers explicit ways to talk to students and notice their behaviors so the students feel seen and heard, King said.
The training teaches educators to adjust their strategies for talking to students. Instead of constantly asking questions, they reinforce the positive things students are doing by saying things such as, “I like how you are putting your backpack away,” or “I notice you’re getting your materials out and ready for the day.”
The training is being provided to schools for free by Grant Wood AEA. This year, educators are getting trained to coach the model in their own schools.
The program is in three elementary schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District — Cleveland, Wright and Nixon — and College Community, Mid-Prairie and Williamsburg school districts.
When coaches are walking teachers through an interaction with a student, King said the feedback teachers will receive is going to reinforce the positive things they’re doing.
“Only a little part of it is going to be corrective,” King said. “The brain is going to interpret that as negative, and I don’t need to contribute to anybody’s internal negative monologue.”
King, who was first trained in this instruction in 2015, coached 32 teachers across four school districts last year. Now, she is training coaches to bring the program to even more teachers.
During the 2021-22 school year, teachers being trained in this model praised students more and had fewer behavior disruptions in their classrooms, according to data from the Grant Wood AEA. Students also achieve higher academically when this training is implemented, according to the data.
Student behavior also improved. In one school before the training was implemented, 40 students were identified as “at-risk” or “in need of support.” That number dropped down to only two students after the training was implemented.
Fewer students were referred to the office. In one school, 24 students were referred to the office in September 2021. That number dropped to one student referred to the office in May 2022.
Preschool students in particular began to initiate more and were able to self-regulate their emotions when this training was implemented.
King said the training is helping “keep teachers in the classroom at a time when we’re losing teachers left and right.”
“Schools are saying they want more of the program. Teachers aren’t feeling like it’s another initiative. They’re feeling and experiencing it as a support,” she said.
Kylee Hayes, principal at Prairie Crest Elementary in the College Community School District, said she has seen a decrease in disruptive behavior and an increase in student engagement in classrooms where this training was implemented last year.
“Coaching is a game changer for our staff,” Hayes said. “It’s been that affirmation opportunity. … We’re able to give feedback immediately, and see change in practice right away.”
Jillian O’Rourke, facilitator at Prairie Ridge, a K-12 special school located on Four Oaks’ campus, was trained in Teacher-Child Interaction Training-Universal last year and is now learning how to be a coach to other teachers.
“Every task we attend to, whether it’s working together on a math problem or science experiment, we’re asking them to complete that academic demand and draw upon ‘how do we work together,’ ‘how do we persevere when somethings hard?’” O’Rourke said. “A big piece is recognizing what students are doing well to build self-esteem.”
Comments: (319) 398-8411; firstname.lastname@example.org