Article by: Lisa Eberle-Mayse, Lead Inclusion Consultant
The longer I work in early childhood education, the more convinced I become that the single most important thing we can do for the young children we serve is to build connections and relationships that foster children's emotional well-being and the ability to interact positively with others. This is not to say that cognitive development doesn't "matter," but rather that in the absence of a strong sense of social and emotional competence, the "ABC's and 123's" just won't take you very far. Unfortunately, as early childhood teachers, many of us are not prepared to address this critical aspect of children's development, especially in the face of the many challenging behaviors that children can display as they grow and learn.
With the generous support of the St. Louis Mental Health Board, CDCA has been working for the past five years to address this critical need through our Social-Emotional Early Childhood (SEEC) Project. SEEC is a year-long process that begins with classroom teaching teams attending four full-day classes on supporting children's social and emotional development. These classes stress the importance of building supports from the bottom up-- focusing first on relationships, teacher beliefs and attitudes, then on classroom environment, social-emotional teaching strategies and finally, individual intervention plans for children with greater needs.
Teachers develop an action plan tailored to their own classroom's needs, and then work with a consultant over a series of on-site observation and feed-back sessions to implement this plan throughout the rest of the project year. Consultants support teachers through the sometimes difficult process of change, and teachers come back together as a large group twice during the year to network and get re-energized.
The end result? More children are learning to make connections, feel good about themselves and understand how to express their emotions in a healthy way. Individual children who were struggling with challenging behaviors are learning more appropriate ways to get their needs met, and teachers are able to think through their own feelings and use strategies that create a peaceful classroom environment for everyone.
Specific, measureable outcomes from the first five years of our project have been significant:
· 309 pre-school children who were identified as being at risk of social emotional delays using a standardized screening tool at the beginning of the year showed a significant improvement on the second administration of the tool at the end of the year.
· 1,619 pre-school children developed new pro-social skills they use regularly in the classroom.
· 257 early childhood teachers completed the training and at least 75% of their Classroom Action Plans.
We are currently enrolling classrooms to participate in our sixth year of the SEEC project. If you are interested, or want more information, please contact Becky (x 40), Gina (x 31) or Lisa (x 17) at 314-531-1412.
CDCA's SEEC Project Team:
Lisa Eberle-Mayse, Lead Inclusion Consultant
Gina Dattilo, Inclusion Specialist
Becky Vogel, Inclusion Specialist
Click here to go to our You Tube Channel to see videos from project participants
and other videos from CDCA!
and other videos from CDCA!