On Monday, the Education Committee of the Maine Legislature heard public testimony on LD 1321, “An Act To Promote Social and Emotional Learning and Development in Early Childhood,” sponsored by Senator Cathy Breen. To learn more about this bill and the study that led to it, click on the links below. You can also read my statement delivered at a press conference in support of LD 1321. The proposed legislation would create a voluntary program where early childhood consultants, specializing in mental health, would be available to early care and education teachers seeking help with children displaying challenging behaviors. Please call or email your Maine Representatives today and tell them to support LD 1321!
My name is Tara Williams. I am an early childhood educator and the Executive Director of the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children. Along with the Family Child Care Association of Maine, we strongly support Senator Breen’s “Act To Promote Social and Emotional Learning and Development in Early Childhood.” It will help us solve one of the challenges we are facing in Maine.
The Social and Emotional Learning and Development Project facilitated a survey of early learning teachers about their experiences with children displaying challenging behavior, where “challenging behavior” is defined as a repeated pattern of behavior that interferes with a child’s ability to play, learn, and get along with others.
As a teacher of young children, I can tell you that we put our hearts and souls into caring for children. We want to meet their needs, help them learn and grow, and see them thrive in our classrooms and programs. The types of challenging behavior addressed by the social and emotional survey, affect the child who is struggling, the other children in the room, the families, and the teacher trying to support them all.
This survey of Maine’s early care and education teachers shows that they commonly encounter young children with serious challenging behavior.
- 92% of the teachers participating in the survey reported having at least one child with challenging behavior in the past 12 months
- On average teachers reported having five children with challenging behavior
- More than half of the teachers stated that the challenging behavior they deal
with has at least some negative impact on other children’s learning and safety.
(SELD Project, p. 8)
Sometimes in situations involving challenging behavior, young children in Maine are suspended or expelled from early care and education settings. “One study of state prekindergarten programs (Gilliam, W.S. 2005) showed that Maine has one of the highest expulsion rates in the country (SELD Project, p. 4). When a family or a program feels like a child’s needs are not being met it is devastating for all those involved. I was in this type of situation not too long ago. I realized I didn’t have the right tools in my toolbox. I wanted to implement the changes that would be most effective, and what I was trying wasn’t working. I knew that the bond I had with the child and family meant that I could have a positive, long-term impact.
Early childhood educators can develop very close, trusting relationships with families and young children. We are in the best position to help, when we have the right tools. And many teachers in Maine are looking for guidance on how to address challenging behaviors and understand the emotions and struggles that are behind those behaviors. Social and emotional development is critical for academic success. We need policies that support young children, their families, and their teachers. We need Senator Breen’s “Act To Promote Social and Emotional Learning and Development in Early Childhood.”