CLC's Barb Roscoe Making Job Transition

Barb Roscoe

Many SLHS alumni will remember Barb Roscoe and her years of dedicated work with children and students in the Child Learning Center (CLC). We were pleased to have an opportunity to interview Barb in the midst of a job transition. Her story spells out her dedication to our field, the CLC children and students, and early childhood in general. She also reveals what plans she has for the future. Other notable faculty and staff from her past are also remembered in her interview.

In Touch: How did you become interested in child language/learning development?

Barb: I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I started working in early childhood education. After spending the first 20 years of my career in elementary and special education, K-12, I fell into early childhood education through the back door. At that time, new federal and state legislation mandated special educational services for preschool children. As I think back, my first encounter with early childhood education was very much like Alice falling into Wonderland. I was curious and wanted to look in from the outside and the next thing I knew I was tumbling down head over heals and landed in the middle of a crazy and topsy-turvy world of early childhood. There was very little preparation or training for educators to fill the role of early childhood education. I remember how everyone was struggling to make the materials and practices they had been using with elementary children work with preschool children. The challenge of coming in on the ground floor and making an impact was all the motivation I needed. (continued)

In Touch: When did you become involved with CU and the CLC?

Barb with CLC Child, Jacob, in 2006

Barb: While working part time as the special education coordinator for a cooperative educational services unit in rural Colorado, I was also working on my Ph.D. in educational psychology at CU-Boulder. My scholarly efforts lacked focus since I didn’t want to follow the pattern of most school psychologists and spend all of my time testing children. I thought that if I could find a dissertation topic that excited me, it would help shape my future goals. I had heard the term INREAL on a few occasions and was intrigued with what I heard. My sister, Carol, had attended an [INterREActive Learning] INREAL training in Minnesota for classroom teachers presented by Tikki Heublein who lived in Boulder and worked at CU. Carol suggested that if I contacted Tikki, she might have some creative ideas for dissertation topics. I called Tikki and she invited me to her home for dinner. In the course of our conversation that evening, I felt a sense of relief to know that someone else shared my ideas about learning and development. Before I went home that evening, Tikki asked me if I wanted a job working with the INREAL Outreach Center at CU. I accepted and began two wonderful, formative, and informative years working with INREAL. During those two years, I completed the INREAL Specialist Training and became an INREAL trainer. I had an opportunity to observe and provide training for many early childhood professionals in Colorado and evaluate pre-kindergarten programs in Texas. My doctoral program was immensely influenced by my work with INREAL and I concentrated my studies on early childhood development and assessment.

In Touch: Who were your mentors in child language/learning?

Barb: When Alice landed in Wonderland, she encountered some colorful characters who guided her on her adventure. I was fortunate to encounter some special people who served as my mentors in this new and foreign territory of early childhood. My earliest mentors at CU were Tikki Heublein, Rita Weiss, Rebecca Edmiaston, and Maureen Kelly-Decker. They provided me with outstanding on-the-job-training in child language development. The INREAL Summer Institutes brought INREAL trainers from around the country to Boulder to share experiences and philosophy. Following my two years with INREAL, I was offered the position of classroom teacher in the Child Learning Center, CLC where I had the opportunity to work closely with Sheila Goetz, Sandy Patrick, and Sue McCord. Later, as I moved on to other outreach activities, Susan Moore served as a mentor as I expanded my knowledge and understanding of working with infants and toddlers, families, and second-language learners. Janine Randol was a precious mentor when she took over as the preschool teacher and we worked on the transdisciplinary play-based team together.

In Touch: How has the CLC evolved over time during your experience there?

Barb: In many ways, the CLC has remained the same. There is still a toddler and preschool program. Rather than a morning and afternoon preschool class, there is now only a morning session. The team is still committed to the philosophy of using conversation as the vehicle for learning. Interaction plays a key role in supporting children’s learning. During orientation to CLC, graduate students learn the importance of their role which, in the words of Rita Weiss, is to “earn the right to become a child’s partner in learning.”

A major change has been a shift in personnel over the years. I was the classroom teacher in the preschool for three years. Since that time there have been four preschool teachers. There have also been changes among other members of the CLC team –SLP supervisors, occupational therapists, family resource consultants.

When I started my CLC experience, the SLP’s had more intensive INREAL training. With more and more time constraints on graduate students, INREAL training has been reduced but still plays a significant role in the CLC experience.

Other CLC-related programs have evolved over time. A transdisciplinary play-based assessment program has been part of the CLC program for several years. There are currently programs for children who are on the autism spectrum as well as parent programs for supporting children’s language and literacy in the home and the CLC has incorporated a day each week, Family Friday, in which parents rotate as volunteers in the classroom.

In Touch: From your experience, what has the CLC's role been in educating SLPs?

Barb: I believe the CLC has laid the groundwork for developing self-reflective professionals. Self-reflection is a key component in developing beliefs and practices based on sound evidence. The CLC has provided a unique experience for students to work with accomplished role models in a contextual experience to support young children’s language and learning. It has been rewarding for me to touch base from time to time with former graduate students and hear how beneficial their CLC experience was in developing interaction strategies that are applicable in all areas of their professional efforts.

Barb with Jacob, 3 yrs. later

In Touch: What are some of your favorite memories in working with students and the CLC?

Barb: I had the opportunity to work with graduate students in the classroom for only three years, but as an INREAL trainer I continued to be involved in the microanalysis of videotapes with students for several more years. Those were my best memories of working with students. It was always amazing to see their reaction to viewing their tapes and hearing comments such as, “I can’t believe I said that.” Or “Did I really do that?” The revelation of how much happens during a few seconds of an interaction that often goes unnoticed was an eye-opener for most of the students. It was incredible to see the changes in interactions that took place after their first microanalysis. Students often remarked that changing the way they interacted by becoming more “reflective” and “reactive” was hard, but well worth the effort and time it took. Several students, over the years, asked me how long it would take before they would be using INREAL strategies automatically. My response was “when it becomes automatic, you’re not doing it right—being truly inter-reactive always requires thoughtful reflection in the moment.” It’s something we all have to continue to work on.

I have been blessed with many treasured memories of children, families, and graduate students over the years. The most memorable events involve a moment of aha! from either a child or parent or a graduate student when a particular new learning or breakthrough in development has occurred. One specific memory that stands out for me involves a little boy named Sam. Sam didn’t want anything to do with fine motor activities that involved pencil and paper, markers, scissors, or painting. Based on the knowledge I had, I truly believed in the importance of giving children choices and that when you really tune into a child they will let you know what they need. Everyday, Sam spent a lot of time at the construction center—hammering and sawing. Other adults, including his mother, tried to convince me that we should insist that he spend some time at the writing center or art center everyday. We made sure that those opportunities were available to him but I knew that was not what Sam needed. Instead we placed construction pencils in the construction area so he could mark the spots on wood where he intended to put nails and draw a line to cut with a saw. At the beginning of the year, Sam had a difficult time holding a nail with one hand while holding the hammer with the other. He gradually became more adept with a hammer and nails. Shortly before the winter break, Sam walked over the easel and painted something for his mother. She cried when he gave it to her that day when she picked him up. A few days later, he pulled his journal out of his cubby which he had not touched in the three months it had been there, proceeded to sit down at the writing table, and started to draw. When he was finished he looked over at me as I was sitting nearby and told me an elaborate story about what he had drawn. I wouldn’t have been able to make sense out of his drawing but he had a specific intention. I knew right away that Sam had just crossed a long and shaky bridge to a new place that involved expressing his ideas through drawing and writing. From that moment on he continued to express himself through writing and art activities—not because of what we had done to “get him ready” but because of what he did for himself because we trusted that he knew what he needed to do.

In Touch: What do you hope remains as part of your and the CLC legacy?

Barb: I hope that in the future of the CLC teachers will not lose sight of the importance of their role of becoming a partner in children’s learning by providing choices that allow children to move forward in their development based on their own interests and needs. I hope that INREAL will continue to be an essential tool for developing self-reflection and interaction strategies that support optimal learning experiences. As pressures to provide more academic competencies in young children increase, I hope that the CLC will not abandon the principles of how children learn, and the children will continue to reap the benefits of participating in a physical, social, and emotional environment that is rich in play, language, literacy and rewarding interactions with adults and peers.

In Touch: What will you be doing after you move on from CLC?

Barb: I am not really moving on from CLC but will be taking CLC with me out into the community. In a sense I have come full circle. I started out providing outreach education and my new role is providing outreach education to community preschool programs. The CLC outreach funding began last December. Much of the early time was spent planning and completing a couple of workshops with the BVSD Child Find Teams. When Anne Hyde-Smith took over my responsibilities as director for the CLC and coordinator of the play-based assessment team on August 1st, I have been able to commit my time to CLC Outreach.

The outreach entails taking the valuable pieces of the CLC program to other programs—with a focus on supporting early language and literacy development. Even though the majority of my work will be out in the community, I have a 20-year investment in making sure that the same quality of services remains in the CLC and I am strongly committed to doing that.

During the first year we are working with two early childhood sites in Boulder. For future planning we are consideration expanding to Boulder County. Each year, we will be working with two primary early childhood centers in which we will provide onsite coaching/mentoring and workshops focusing on supporting early language and literacy through interaction, environment, and connections to home. We will also provide parent workshops focusing on supporting early language and literacy in the home.

Barb has received honors for her work in early childhood including the David and Frances Hawkins Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. She was also featured in the INREAL DVD, The Dance of Conversation: Strategies for Encouraging Children's Language Development. Visit the Child Learning Center website at:
http://slhs.colorado.edu/clinical/clc.php