An article in the Washington Post talks about how 4-5 years are being suspended from preschool in D.C., and the percentages are getting higher.
“Among the students that are being suspended were African American Boys and English language, learners. According to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, children with disabilities made up nearly 20 percent of all preschool suspensions.”
I believe that part of this problem, especially when it comes to the students with a special need, is a lack of training on the part of the teachers. When children with special needs enter a center, and the teacher is unsure what to do with them, it can upset the entire classroom. These students might need an aide or teacher who can work with them individually, which isn’t always available in preschool. And often, these students have not been diagnosed with a special need, so they are labeled as difficult students when they are not.
It also sounds like there is a gap in communication with the children that are learning English. When children feel like they are not being heard or their words don’t matter, they will act out. As far as the African American Boys, boys tend to be more active than girls. Teachers need to figure out what they are dealing with when it comes to boys’ behaviors. Sometimes boys are simply boys, which can be interpreted as behavioral problems when it really isn’t. When I have overzealous boys in my classroom, I try to find something that will keep them engaged, so the boys will not resort to play fighting.
I also believe that African American boys’ behavior is seen differently than boys who are not African American. They might display the same behavior as other boys their age, but it is perceived differently.
I’m not sure what kind of behavioral problems the teachers were experiencing in D.C.; the article didn’t address that. However, I don’t believe that students should ever be allowed to stay in a preschool program if they are hitting teachers or a danger to themselves or others; this becomes a safety issue. I have observed students who have hit teachers, threw toys and furniture across the classroom, beat on other students who became fearful of them. Those students stayed in the program until their behavior escalated and someone got hurt. Then, of course, the school blamed the teacher for the student’s behavior and the child who got hurt.
I agree that behavior is how students communicate their feelings. But I think the safety of all children and teachers should be taken into account. I don’t think a suspension is always the answer to these issues. Still, I believe that a modified schedule will be necessary for these instances. —additional training for the staff member and a thorough investigation for those students who might be discriminated against.
It is essential to educate yourself about every child in your care, find out about their lives and the challenges that they have already experienced or have not experienced as children.
Knowing their background will help you relate to them. Don’t take this information as a way to feel sorry for them. That’s not what they need, and feeling sorry for a person, doesn’t allow them to grow as individuals.
Provide understanding on your part, and this will open them up to trusting you with their feelings, creating a better teacher-student relationship.
Sometimes this might not be easy in certain situations, and the teacher and the student might need time away from each other to regroup and start fresh another day.