“I notice” …. Now what? by Jeannette Corey. Written with Amy Dombro and Gabriel Guyton.

As her first year directing the Bank Street Family Center/Home & Community Based Program comes to a close, Jeannette Corey looked back on using “I Notice” statements.  This Think Piece shares some of her insights and lessons learned about using "I Notice" statements to link teachers' decisions to outcomes for children.  We invite you to reflect on Jeannette's reflections as you think about your own practice. 

Amy and Judy

Reflections on Using "I Notice" statements to Link Teachers' Decisions to Outcomes for Children.

 As Jeannette explains, “The year before I came to Bank Street, staff had been introduced to ‘I notice’ statements by Amy (former head of the Family Center and author of Powerful Interactions) and Gabriel Guyton (Instructor/Advisor Family Development and Early Intervention Program at Bank Street). We decided to continue this work and next year plan to use “I Notice” statements to focus on curriculum decisions in all domains.   I hope some of these insights will be helpful to other program leaders and their teams.” 

The power of “noticing” and articulating what works:

  • Focusing and describing moments of effectiveness gives people words for what they are doing that works.  They can then think and talk together about their practice and are more likely to repeat and build upon what they do.
  • Noticing contributes to relationships and to building team.  I always used to think staff members know that you notice but I have to think about it more now. I was a little surprised that each time I shared statements with staff members, they reacted by saying something like,  “I’m glad you noticed.  People felt seen.
  • Noticing is about being curious, not about judging.  One day as I watched a staff member trying to help a child clean up, I wondered how it was going to turn out.  Having been a teacher I know about feeling anxious when your boss is there.  I also know how quickly things can go wrong.  This work is not about “catching someone out”.  Rather calling attention to what they do that is working.

Using  “I notice” statements:

  • It can take time to get comfortable with saying: “I notice”…….  “It matters because….”   It felt awkward at first but you don’t have to say those exact words. For example, you might say: “When you kneel next to Jeremy at the sand table and watch, your focus helps him focus on his play.”
  • Articulating the connection between a teacher’s decisions and outcomes for children is a skill that program and classroom leaders need to develop. Even though I know that a teacher’s words or actions matter, explaining “why” was a challenge.  It did become a little easier with practice.
  • Incorporating “I notice” statements into the culture of program requires commitment and ongoing modeling from leadership.   Given the demands of my first year directing this program, I was not able to give “I Notice” statements the focus I intended.  We are going to regroup in the fall.
  • Social-emotional outcomes seemed a little more comfortable and easy to articulate as we used this strategy.  Next year we will work to also include cognitive and physical domains.
Mike, I noticed how you stopped your teacher work and turned to face R (15 mos) when she came over to you. You offered her a smile, a hug and engaged her in a conversation even though you had been busy in the office. This matters because children need to know that the adults they are connected to will always make time to re-fuel them emotionally. Being able to rely on a caring, consistent adult makes children feel safe.

  • Consider doing “I notice” statements with all staff members.  Our original plan was to focus on Head Teachers and that they in turn would use “I notice with their team members. The reality was that once in a classroom – or even in the hallway – there were things to notice about other staff members as well. 
  • Use photos when possible.   We all want to see ourselves being effective.
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     Channing, when friends wanted make a boat, you said,  “Friends want to make a boat.  We’re going to have to move our bodies off the steps so we can turn them over.  Do you want to help?”    Your language gave children the steps to reaching a goal. You also invited them to work together building community.

Channing, when friends wanted make a boat, you said,  “Friends want to make a boat.  We’re going to have to move our bodies off the steps so we can turn them over.  Do you want to help?”  Your language gave children the steps to reaching a goal. You also invited them to work together building community.

  •  Give teachers statements about their work on the spot or within a short time.  Incorporate them into coaching and professional development conversations whether one-on-one or in a group.   Receiving feedback in a timely way keeps the conversation going and builds momentum.

 Writing “I notice” statements:

  • Be prepared by keeping paper or sticky notes and pen handy.  Moments you notice can happen without warning.  It is hard to remember details if you don’t jot them down.
  • Write short statements. One line telling what you noticed.  One line telling why it mattered.  We got a little too long and complicated.  Think “a moment”.  That way you’ll be likely to capture more moments.
  • Go for “good enough” and often rather than trying to write the perfect statement.  There is no such thing as perfect.  Over time writing I notice statements will become easier.  Doing them often matters because it lets people know that noticing moments of effectiveness is part of the culture.

 Next steps include:

  • Be more intentional as we build upon our work of the past year and include “I notice” statements around curricular goals in all domains. This year most of our statements were about social-emotional learning.  Next year we will broaden our focus to include “I notice” statements that reflect the concept of ‘extending the learning’.  By reflecting on how we intentionally create an environment and choose the materials that support children’s explorations of the world, we will be better able to articulate the rich cognitive learning that is embedded in their play
Robin, on the day you came to Room 1 for a visit, I noticed that you said to Liam, “I see 1, 2, 3 zebras going up.” This matters because you seamlessly integrated counting and one-to-one correspondence –important cognitive skills - into Liam’s play.

  • Begin to use “I notice” with families.
  • Continue documenting our work to identify lessons learned and new insights.