Beginnings School and Child Development Center is unique for many reasons. Among those reasons is our unique, evidence-based begin to…ECSEL approach that has been shown to improve what is commonly referred to as Emotional Intelligence, what academia calls Emotional Competence. For me, as a teacher, one of the most important differentiators of this program is the training that is part and parcel to that approach. That training, led by school founder Dr. Donna Housman, has been instrumental in my development not only as a teacher, but as a person as well.
During our weekly trainings with Dr. Housman, we as teachers focus on many different topics that are relevant to our students and to our staff. One of the most fascinating topics that we have discussed is neuroscience and the brain. We have been educated by Dr. Housman on the importance of neuropathways and on the foundational strength of those neural connections in children at a young age. Understanding early brain development as it relates to emotional, cognitive and social early learning is central to Dr. Housman’s teachings and work. At an early age, children need to be provided with opportunities and guidance to foster their social, emotional and cognitive growth. This sensitive early period of neuroplasticity—during which nurturing relationships are essential for the effective development of neural pathways that are prerequisites for learning, brain development, social-emotional functioning and overall health—provides unparalleled opportunities for children and their caregivers. It is an ideal time for us, as teachers and parents, to promote foundational emotional, cognitive and social competencies such as emotional competence, self-regulation, empathy and other skills essential for children’s lifelong learning, success, mental health and well-being. The promotion of these constructs is the basis of our emotional, cognitive, and social early learning approach, begin to…ECSEL.
During our weekly trainings with Dr. Housman, we focus on a different topic each month, reading and discussing topics that are provided ahead of time. We also brainstorm scenarios and situations to help us become better teachers, colleagues, friends, loved ones, and listeners. To effectively promote emotional competence, we learn to become more emotionally competent ourselves.
In the past, I have taken many different courses and workshops to further my professional development. Whenever I have signed up for a course, I always have had the same thought: “I want to learn one new thing.” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I never know what to expect or if my thoughts will be welcome and useful. My thoughts and perspectives are valued here.
I also have taught in many different settings (public school systems, private childcare, corporate childcare, and live-in nanny); every setting has perks and challenges. Beginnings is the first school I have encountered where my philosophy and the school’s philosophy are very much in sync. In the corporate childcare where I worked, the child was not the main focus of the educational experience and we were required to help children meet goals that were not developmentally appropriate. At Beginnings, we teach using the Emergent Curriculum model that allows us to implement our philosophy on a moment-by-moment basis that is individualized to each child. The begin to…ECSEL approach is a vital and essential undergird to our teaching at Beginnings. I am a better teacher, school leader and overall person because of it.
*Author Linda Lee is Assistant Director of Beginnings Child Development Center