Developing the “Whole Child”

Cassandra Chavarria-Garcia – better known as “Ms. Cassie” – is Lead Teacher in Main Street’s Dolphins classroom. Main Street serves children from predominately low-income working families in Fairfax County. To protect confidentiality, the featured student’s name has been changed and he is not pictured in the image below.

Ms. Cassie has worked with plenty of children with behavioral challenges, so it takes a special case to faze her. For the first 3 months of the past school year, Jeffrey refused to participate in class activities, period. He wanted to be by himself all the time. He continually defied teachers and staff. He wasn’t interested in teachers’ suggestions nor did he offer suggestions of his own. Plus, Jeffrey struggled to communicate – and control – his feelings.

This graph is based on scores of 36 Pre-K students who are preparing to enter Kindergarten this fall. Each student made significant progress towards school readiness in HighScope’s Social & Emotional Development assessment area. All Pre-K students achieved – or made significant progress towards achieving – school readiness on their overall assessments.

This graph charts average annual progress – from Fall 2014 through Spring 2015 – for Main Street’s Pre-K students. Each student achieved school readiness in HighScope’s Social & Emotional Development assessment area. The “red line” denotes HighScope’s benchmark for school readiness, 3.75.

Each day, when two assistant teachers led the rest of her class to lunch, Ms. Cassie stayed behind to provide one-on-one support to Jeffrey. She estimates that she spent about 20 minutes per day just to coax him to join his classmates in the cafeteria.

With Main Street’s unique 1:6 teacher-student ratio, she could provide individualized support without sacrificing the development of her other students. “It’s wonderful to have two additional adults in the program,” Ms. Cassie said, referring to a teacher-student ratio that allows educators to meet the often intense emotional needs of at-risk children.

Ms. Cassie taught Jeffrey that expressing emotions is okay as long as he expressed himself in a manner that is safe to other students and adults. After months of individualized support, there was progress.

Today, when an argument breaks out in the Dolphins classroom, Jeffrey is the first to practice tactics he learned from Al’s Pals social-emotional curriculum, a staple in all Main Street classrooms. Simple statements like “Please stop” or “I don’t like that” are major strides for a child that often resorted to hitting and taking toys away from his classmates.

The Butterflies, our youngest students, proudly wear Al's Pals t-shirts as their teachers display Al, Ty and Keisha, the puppets used in interactive classroom skits. The Al's Pals curriculum is designed to teach children social-emotional skills from an early age.

The Butterflies, our youngest students, proudly wear Al’s Pals t-shirts as their teachers display Al, Ty and Keisha, the puppets used in interactive classroom skits that teach children social-emotional skills from an early age.

Like previous Main Street students who have faced behavioral challenges, Jeffrey made significant gains in social skills in just a year. He made dramatic progress in areas such as “Emotions” and “Building Relationships with Adults”, which are targeted by our HighScope preschool curriculum.

Most importantly, Jeffrey’s end-of-year assessment demonstrated that he was prepared with the overall tools and skills to succeed in kindergarten. He’ll enter elementary school in September.

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