Training the Trainers

For nearly a decade, the Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC) has wanted to bring to New York the Pyramid Model for Supporting Social-Emotional Competence—a kind of toolbox for helping programs better support young kids' social emotional development. Bob Frawley, co-chair of ECAC, says the stars have finally aligned. Using a small federal grant, ECAC, an initiative of the state's Council on Children and Families, has taken first steps to build a cadre of trainers who will be equipped to help New York programs and practitioners use the model.

"Everything is kind of going right for us," says Frawley. "OMH (the state Office of Mental Health) is very much on board."

Put ‘challenging behavior’ in the title and you’ll have a full house. People are so desperate for answers.

As would be expected, the Pyramid Model, which was developed with federal funding at Vanderbilt University’s Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSEFEL), is often depicted with the visual image of a pyramid. The pyramid’s foundation represents what all kids needs. Its tip symbolizes interventions for the most challenging children.

Pyramid trainers educate early childhood workers about the philosophy behind the model and give them research-backed best practices and tools, such as a curricula for child care centers that they can use in their day to day interactions with children and families.

Rob Corso, project coordinator at CSEFEL, gives the example of a preschool teacher who says she’s tried everything to address a kid’s problem behavior. “And she usually means she’s tried about three things: redirect the child, ignore the behavior, or give a timeout,” says Corso. A Pyramid Model trainer would expand her repertoire, potentially giving her over 20 new concrete tactics for addressing behavior issues.

In April, ECAC had a first meeting with CSEFEL to strategize bringing the model to New York. Over the next few months, 30-50 trainers will be guided in learning the model, and eventually begin providing professional development for a wide range of workers in the field.

Corso believes that drawing an audience to these trainings will not be difficult: Put “‘challenging behavior’ in the title and you’ll have a full house,” he says. “People are so desperate for answers that it’s not been too difficult to get folks to training [in other states where the model has been implemented].”

What will be trickier, he says, is convincing programs to commit to deepening their work in this area after a training ends. One of the model’s goals is for some program leaders to receive individual coaching and consultation over an extended period of time. This is where Corso says he sees the most promising results. “We know we can train ’til the cows come home, but without follow-up people just don’t change,” he says. 

For more information about bringing the Pyramid Model to New York, contact ECAC.