On January 16, 2015, more than 400 First Steps 4K teachers and staff from across the state gathered in Columbia to learn valuable strategies that will extend First Steps to School Readiness’ implementation of the state’s 2014 Read to Succeed/4K Act.
Through a full day of advanced training on the nationally-recognized “Conscious Discipline” curriculum, First Steps 4K educators in the state’s public-private four-year-old kindergarten expansion took a new look at discipline, not as tool for classroom control, but as an “executive function” self-management skill that must be developed in children as a foundation for school readiness and future life success.
“I can’t begin to say how important this day was for our students and teachers,” said Joyce Stacey, director of Eagle Academy, First Steps 4K in Chesnee, SC. “If we want our students to be successful, we as their teachers have to develop the skills to help them do that. Today gave us new insights to help our students in the critical area of self-regulation.”
Among those addressing the group was Dwayne “D.J.” Batiste, a former Mississippi gang member and reform school student whose life was transformed by the caring approach of one special teacher. Expelled from preschool as a child, Batiste now travels the nation, training teachers how to deal with the behaviors of high-risk children like himself. Among the strategies introduced were tools for conflict resolution and self-regulation.
Batiste’s story clearly resonated with the teachers gathered. Connie Williams of Kids Corner in Florence called the day a “game changer. This is going to make a huge difference in the way I work with students, ” said Williams.
“Teachers and administrators clearly understand the importance of connecting with individual children,” said Julia-Ellen Davis, Charleston, chair of SC First Steps Program and Grants Committee and state board member. “Strong connections and individualized instruction builds skills, self-esteem, and self-regulation within young learners,” said Davis. “Improving school readiness in South Carolina begins with this critical foundation.”
Friday’s event was hosted by South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness for teachers and staff participating in the state’s public-private four-year-old kindergarten program statewide.
The group also reviewed First Steps’ baseline data on SC’s new school readiness assessment, mClass Circle. Enabled by the Read to Succeed Act in June 2014, the new early literacy assessment was administered to all 4K and 5K students statewide in September and October.
SC First Steps currently serves more than 1,900 low-income four-year-olds through a network of 150 private preschool providers statewide.