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 Teaching Pyramid Provides Foundation for Success

Children learn any number of skills at the preschool age -- getting dressed on their own, riding a tricycle, or using crayons. But what about their behavior and emotions?

Early childhood educators have embraced the Teaching Pyramid, a research- and evidence-based framework that promotes social and emotional competence in young children. It emphasizes the promotion of positive behaviors and the prevention of challenging behaviors. Early intervention and "teaching" rather than "telling" are key components.

When a young child is acting out -- showing challenging behavior -- the adult needs to ask, “Who is the ‘challenging behavior’ challenging?”

"It's challenging the adult," says Karen Matsuda, a QPI early education specialist with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE).

"In preschool, a child acts out because he wants something, is trying to get away from someone or something, or it's an emotional expression," Matsuda says. "Children have to recognize emotion in themselves before they can recognize it in other children, so that they have empathy, not just sympathy. We're building character in children."

The Teaching Pyramid framework was developed by the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning and enhanced for California by WestEd. The framework emphasizes strong relationships, support for social and emotional competence, and the prevention of challenging behaviors, and promotes belonging for all young children.

When early childhood educators are trained in the Teaching Pyramid, preschoolers demonstrate greater emotional literacy, social competence, and fewer behavioral challenges.

Teachers are trained to promote the social-emotional development of young children using preventive strategies and to recognize the need for more intensive interventions when children have significant social-emotional needs and challenging behavior.

"This is all about teaching, not telling or giving recipes for how to change children," Matsuda says. "And it's for one reason: children's success."

In San Diego County, SDCOE has 11 authorized Teaching Pyramid trainer-coaches. Thirteen QPI agencies around the county have implemented or are getting started on the Teaching Pyramid framework, including Child Development Associates, MAAC Head Start, Children's Paradise, Grossmont College, Lemon Grove School District, and Escondido Union School District. Also taking part are Episcopal Community Services Head Start, South Bay Union School District, YMCA, Cajon Valley Union School District, La Mesa-Spring Valley School District, San Ysidro School District, and Chula Vista Elementary School District.