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Helping Preschoolers Build Self-Regulation Skills That Are The Foundation Of Success

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Antonia Celius, a preschool lead teacher at Educare, talks with a student. (Courtesy Edutopia)

Preschool is an important time for children to build pro-social behaviors and learn to get along with other kids in a school setting. Recently, there has been more emphasis on academic preparation in preschool, but just as important, are the social and emotional skills kids will need to succeed when they move into kindergarten.

Educare New Orleans Early Childhood School is a public pre-K that focuses on giving kids the language to talk about their emotions from an early age. Their play-based curriculum gives teachers lots of opportunities to help students build self-regulation skills. Educators here say success is when a child moves into elementary school with the self-regulation skills they need to focus and learn at the next level.

"They're better able to verbalize their emotions and what they're going through," said Thomas Whifield, family support manager at Educare New Orleans. "They're ready to speak about their problems and not react to their problems. And my doing that they're ready to go to that next level."

Teachers use the Conscious Discipline curriculum, which they like because it doesn't focus on managing behavior, but rather on giving kids the tools to direct it themselves. Edutopia profiled Educare's social and emotional program on their "Schools that Work" segment.


"In previous classrooms that I've had, we didn't give them the means to articulate their feelings," said Antonia Celius, a preschool lead teacher. "If you don't give them the language that they need, they can't communicate what their needs are. We're always telling them, 'Use your words and not your hands!' But, what words?"

Celius also points out that many preschool teachers talk about touch with kids in a negative way. She takes time every morning to do a positive touch ritual so kids learn what "gentle touch" means and have a framework to understand when it's a good time and place to express oneself through touch.

And while teachers here know if they do their jobs well it will serve these students in the future, they're also aware of how important it is to help kids' caregivers to continue the practices at home. Educare has a two-generation approach to early childhood, in which they bring parents into school as much as possible and teach them the same techniques and strategies.

"We're not trying to do for them, we're trying to do with them," said Whitfield.

They offer parents a mixture of online and in-person resources on financial fitness, health and wellness and literacy. Maybe more important, they build relationships with parents.

"Anything I need, Ms. Angie she's there for me," said a single-parent named Troy. "It's deeper than just school, they care about you."

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