Teresa Sanders

Preschool should be a fun, structured and enlightening experience for all students. During preschool, children learn concepts like letters, numbers and colors. Students also learn routines like walking in lines, staying seated and following instructions. These concepts will help students transition into kindergarten smoothly with less time spent on social training and more time spent on academics. Students must be present in the preschool classroom to reap these benefits. A recent article I read on NBCNews.com titled, “50,000 preschoolers are suspended each year. Can mental health training for teachers make a difference?”

The gist of the article is to consider offering mental health training to teachers to help us effectively manage trying and troublesome student behavior, thus reducing preschool suspensions. I think offering mental health training to teachers is a good idea. However, the expectation of correction should not and cannot fall on educators alone.

Preschoolers are usually about four-years-old. This suggests the student issues are not initially connected to the school setting. What has occurred with a child in four years that a teacher rather than parent should be asked to deal with it? It seems that perhaps offering parenting, mental health, life or even vocational training would be more effective in the effort to correct the maladaptive behavior of preschoolers.

My theory of why teachers would be asked to intervene in the mental health concerns of students is that teachers can be mandated to do it as part of our jobs. No one can make parents participate in training designed to help them help their children. The parents who need the most assistance are often the ones whose children are the most troubled. Yet most if these parents do not believe or act like there is anything significantly wrong with their child’s behavior despite multiple suspensions.

These parents may blame school faculty, an absent parent or medication issues for their children’s conduct. Rather than legislating parental accountability, teachers are called upon to act as social workers and therapists while they teach twenty-two students to read, write and count. When school improvement efforts are proposed, an idea the does not include parents will not likely produce optimal outcomes.

Research indicates that students who are suspended from school during preschool are more likely to drop out before graduation. We must reduce the preschool suspensions. The first four years of students’ lives are spent with parents. Perhaps we should call on parents to take the lead in the effort to reduce suspensions at the preschool level. We need parents to be responsible for their children’s emotional and academic achievement as our partners in education, not passive bystanders.

I’d love to hear your comments.

Email comments to FMTeachersLounge@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter @DrTeresaSanders.

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