Perspectives on Early Childhood Psychology and Education

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Early childhood educators are often overworked, underpaid, stressed, and at risk for burnout (Wells, 2015). In addition to teaching early academic skills, early childhood educators are also tasked with teaching and supporting students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom. Given the aforementioned limitations, it is imperative to examine how the social-emotional needs of early childhood educators are supported as they implement and sustain SEL. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) are often implemented to promote SEL and meet the social-emotional needs of young children; however, MTSS is only effective if all components are implemented with fidelity. In contrast to school-aged MTSS, where there are often several stakeholders involved, the implementation of MTSS often falls on early childhood educators, as mental health consultants are not readily available or affordable to early childhood centers. Given the heavy load placed upon early childhood educators, it is critical to shift the focus of MTSS to include the social-emotional needs of the teacher. We argue that teachers’ social-emotional needs should be considered and supported within MTSS to prevent burnout and promote the fidelity of SEL programs. Teacher focused interventions such as mindfulness (Chin et al., 2019) and the Circle of Security (Cooper et al., 2017; Gray, 2015) may increase teacher’s feelings of well-being, reduce teacher stress and burnout, increase positive teacher-child interactions, and, therefore increase the effectiveness of the MTSS process. Ultimately, by supporting the social-emotional growth of early childhood educators, we are building their capacity to effectively support the SEL of young children.