Wisconsin preschool expulsions, teachers’ mental health linked

Katie Dudley leads students while stretching on Thursday, March 23, 2023  at The Community Early Learning Center in Appleton, Wis. The “Kindness Curriculum” for 4K / early education classrooms uses activities to teach mindfulness at a young age, and help with the students’ and teachers’ social-emotional health.
Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Katie Dudley felt like she was regressing as a 4K teacher. Her students, although technically the same age she taught year after year, behaved completely differently.

The reason was clear. Many parents told Dudley that being in her classroom was the first time their children had left the house or engaged with other children in two years — which happened to be half their lives.

“They were 2-year-olds when the world shut down (for the pandemic),” Dudley said. “I really had to shift the way I responded to their social and emotional needs. I felt like I was teaching a bunch of 2-year-olds in 4-year-olds’ bodies, and my experience is with 4-year-olds, not 2-year-olds.”

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