Top five takeaways from the Educare Learning Network Meeting

All 21 Educare schools joined in Atlanta on April 5-7 to explore early learning strategies at the 2016 Educare Learning Network Meeting. The annual meeting is an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments and explore best practices.

This year’s meeting, hosted by Educare Atlanta, was full of valuable takeaways, including insights on how to:

1. Prevent preschool expulsion
Educare welcomed keynote speaker Walter Gilliam, Ph.D., director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and associate professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Gilliam discussed how children are being expelled from early childhood settings at an alarming rate—more than three times the rate for children in K-12 grades.

He explained that expulsion “is not a treatment. We have to think about feeling the need to expel a child as a red flag.” It’s an indicator that something else is wrong, such as the program’s mental health climate for both children and adults.

2. Support children with challenging behaviors
Dr. Gilliam also provided ideas for how adults can better support children with challenging behaviors. “We need to rethink how we view challenging behaviors.” Dr. Gilliam said, explaining that they can be an opportunity to teach children social and emotional skills.

However, many teachers don’t have adequate training on how to best handle these behaviors, Dr. Gilliam said. Programs can better support their teachers by providing more training, promoting stronger relationships between teachers and parents, and by having behavioral and mental health consultants on-site.

3. Encourage male involvement in early learning
Studies find that children do and learn better when they have strong male role models. Educare Atlanta staff have also found this to be true, so they led a panel discussion on the benefits of male involvement in early learning.

“We have a lot of men on staff because we were intentional about hiring men,” said Steve White, senior director of school leadership for Educare Atlanta’s parent organization, Sheltering Arms Early Education & Family Centers. “We realized the impact that male involvement in early learning can have for young boys and other children.”

4. Advocate for early learning
Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, Lisa Klein, executive director of the Alliance for Early Success and Elliot Regenstein, senior vice president, policy and advocacy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, addressed attendees with advice on how Educare schools and other organizations can help create positive policy change on national, state and local levels. Perry said that this is “our moment to improve early learning policy” and told attendees to “be a leader in your community, tell your story, and don’t let go.”

5. Create a welcoming, creative environment for children
Educare Atlanta and Sheltering Arms provided a warm welcome for meeting attendees, just as the school is a welcoming environment for the 215 young children and families whom they serve. Educare Atlanta is also a creative hub—with children’s artwork on display throughout the school, an art studio to spark creativity and interactive art displays that encourage children and staff to use their imaginations.

For more takeaways from the meeting, follow #EducareMeeting on Twitter and check out our Educare Learning Network Meeting and Educare Spirit photo albums on Facebook.