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.