- Reflect on what it means to be a responsive preschool teacher.
- Reflect on what it means to be a socially-emotionally competent preschool teacher.
- Brainstorm how to cultivate and nurture social-emotional competence in your preschool classroom and program.
How do you nurture and sustain your social-emotional health in your personal life? Are there rituals or activities you engage in that make you feel more connected to yourself or to others? Are there individuals who nurture and inspire you to be and feel your best?
What about in your professional life? How do you foster your social-emotional health at work? What elements of your work environment sustain your social-emotional health? Is it relationships with coworkers or supervisors? Is it the freedom to work independently to plan experiences and use materials? Is it guidance and constructive feedback from colleagues? Is it sharing concerns, ideas and brainstorming solutions when situations arise? Is it relationships with children and families?
Throughout this course, you have been learning about the importance of being a responsive caregiver for children’s social-emotional development and that caring, responsive, and attentive adults can foster children’s social-emotional competence and growth. So what does it mean to be a responsive adult? Responsiveness is seen when an adult changes how he or she interacts with a child to match the child’s needs. The adult supports the child, responds immediately, and reacts with positive affect that matches the child’s needs and development.
What Does It Mean To Be A Responsive Preschool Teacher?
Researchers Carl Dunst and Danielle Kassow (2008) have identified key characteristics of sensitivity and responsiveness in caregiver-child relationships. Although Dunst and Kassow’s (2008) research focused on defining sensitive caregiving for infants or toddlers, below we outline the responsive characteristics that are most important for preschooler teachers. In the Explore section of this lesson, you will have an opportunity to reflect on these elements as they relate to your own experiences in preschool.
What does it Mean to be a Socially and Emotionally Competent Preschool Teacher?
Social-emotional growth and development is a crucial part of the human experience; it helps us learn things about ourselves, establish and maintain relationships with others, and allows for meaningful learning experiences. In your daily interactions with preschool-age children, it is your responsibility to build relationships with them and foster relationships among children by designing supportive environments and by being responsive. Building relationships is an essential, primary component of good teaching.
In Lesson One, you had the opportunity to explore your own views on social-emotional development. This lesson extends this exploration by encouraging you to consider social-emotional development in your workplace and ask yourself what it means to be a socially and emotionally competent preschool teacher.
In your work, you are responsible for creating meaningful experiences that incorporate opportunities for the practice of social-emotional skills throughout the day. Being a socially and emotionally competent teacher can be expressed in a number of different ways:
- Taking time to work on establishing and maintaining relationships with children and colleagues in your classroom and program
- Trying to work out solutions to challenges
- Demonstrating flexibility
- Allowing yourself to make mistakes
- Being nurturing and responsive
- Trying new things
- Asking for help or support when facing difficulties
- Helping others in need
- Being willing to accept new or different perspectives
- Embracing diversity
- Being open-minded
- Sharing your own emotions and thoughts
What are some of your own views about being a socially-emotionally competent preschool teacher? Pause for a few moments and think about this. .
Cultivating and Nurturing Social-Emotional Competence in your Preschool Classroom and Program
Social-emotional competence helps you become part of a workplace community that feels welcoming, supportive, friendly, energetic, and nurturing. It helps you engage children, families, and colleagues in a range of meaningful ways. Consider the following when engaging with children, families, and colleagues in your program.
Engaging with children
- Demonstrate empathy and compassion when working with children. Inspire children to be empathetic and compassionate by demonstrating these attributes yourself.
- Demonstrate positive social skills with children throughout the day, encourage children to do the same, and positively reinforce them when doing so.
- Use children’s backgrounds, experiences, and interests as inspiration for ideas about experiences and activities in your classroom.
- Cultivate a climate of respect and appreciation of individual differences in your classroom. Invite children to share their views and experiences with you.
- Demonstrate respect for children’s values and opinions. Your example will be setting the tone for how children view themselves and for how they treat others.
Engaging with families
- Families can be your program’s window into culturally responsive experiences. Invite families to share meaningful experiences.
- Provide opportunities for families of the children in your classroom and program to meet and get to know each other.
- Invite families to observe and participate in some of your classroom activities.
- Send home books with the children about emotions and social-emotional skills.
- Encourage families to nurture social-emotional skills at home by extending some of your classroom and school experiences in the home environment.
Engaging with colleagues
- Connect with your colleagues. Share your interests and experiences with colleagues during staff meetings, lunch breaks, or in-service days. Explain how these interests drive some of the experiences you create for children in your classroom. Get to know the people you work with on a personal level.
- Exchange ideas with colleagues about experiences that foster social-emotional growth. Invite a colleague to come to your room, observe your activities, and give you feedback. Offer to do the same for your colleagues.
- Ask a trainer, coach, or supervisor to observe your classroom so they can offer feedback about your use of materials and experiences to promote children’s social-emotional growth.
- Acknowledge colleagues who are doing great things, who offer you guidance and constructive feedback, and who inspire you to strive for excellence and to be a team player.
In the Learn section of this lesson, you will find information about the Top Ten Practices to Promote Social-Emotional Literacy in preschool classrooms.
How do you define resilience and social-emotional development? How do the responsive teacher characteristics relate to you and your practice with children? These are important questions to think about.
Download and print the Thinking About My Own Resilience, Responsive Teacher Checklist, and Responsive Teacher Checklist Self-Reflection handouts. Take a few minutes to read and respond to the questions in each of these handouts. Then, share and discuss your responses with a trainer, coach, or supervisor.
Download and print the handout, Learning More About Resilience, which contains links to additional resources you can use to better understand and explore adult resilience and social-emotional well-being. After accessing and reviewing the video clips and information, share and discuss your experiences with a trainer, coach, or supervisor.
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