Fostering Social-Emotional Skills in Early Childhood Classrooms
(Updated August 2019)
More and more children are coming to preschool without having learned how to interact with peers and how to manage their feelings. Challenging behaviors are being seen more often and preschoolers are being suspended and expelled from school at unprecedented numbers.
Because children are coming to preschool without the requisite social and emotional skills deliberate teaching and fostering of these skills has to become a major focus in early childhood classrooms. But teachers often feel pressured to get children 'ready' for kindergarten.They feel that they need to focus on "academic" skills such as literacy and numeracy skills. However, if children are unprepared in the social and emotional realm, it is difficult for them to learn "academics". These children, who are often the ones who are suspended, are the very children that need to be in school. They are not going to learn how to 'behave' if they are not in school.
Walter Gilliam's research indicates that preschoolers are suspended at a rate that is three times higher than that of children in kindergarten through grade 12. (What Could Make Less Sense than Expelling a Preschooler?, https://psychologybenefits.org/2014/12/13/preschool-expulsions/) These children aren't suspended or expelled because they don't know the letters of the alphabet or they can't write their name. It is because they don't have the social and emotional skills necessary to meet the demands of the classroom.
What are your immediate reactions when you read the following?
- “If a child doesn’t know how to read, we teach.”
- “If a child doesn’t know how to swim, we teach.”
- “If a child doesn’t know how to multiply, we teach.”
- “If a child doesn’t know how to drive, we teach.”
- “If a child doesn’t know how to behave, we……..... ……….teach?………punish?”
- “Why can’t we finish the last sentence as automatically as we do the others?” Tom Herner (NASDE President ) Counterpoint 1998, p.2