Yesterday I was at the mall buying a new phone when I ran into one of my old students. I haven’t seen this kid for over a year. Most of my former students act like they don’t know me, so I was surprised that he acknowledged me. For you to fully understand my reaction you need to know what my role was for him. I was a Behavior Coach. I worked with students who frequented ISS and the alternative campus like it was a party. I tried to help them improve behavior, grades and stay in class. With this background knowledge you might understand why my first thought was, “please don’t be shop lifting”.
I know that seems harsh, but the reality is this kid has a rough life and has made some bad choices to survive.
Well, I guess my thoughts were displayed in my expression because the first thing he said to me was, “I’m staying out of trouble!”
When I worked with him he was living with his Mom and Dad, but neither had a job, both were usually high and they bounced around from hotel to apartment about ever two weeks. He was taking care of three younger siblings. At home he was often the “man” of the house and at school he had problems being “bossed around” (as he put it) by teachers. Unfortunately this is a common situation is some areas.
Now he wasn’t the roughest kid I worked with, but he could hold his own. I was pleased to hear that he is living with a cousin and doing really well in high school.
Seeing him was a good reminder for me of what some of our students are going through.
I’m telling this story because as we return to school I want teachers and staff to keep in mind that the situations some students are coming from will affect how they behave and learn in school.
If you’ve been in education for a more than a year you know the look of a hungry kid. You know the student who doesn’t have clean clothes, running water, or a stable/safe home. And you know how this affects every aspect of their life.
So for new teachers I just want to ask you to keep an eye out for these kids and be aware of their issues outside of school. Don’t change expectations, but adjust when needed so they have a chance. And for all educational staff, please remember it is hard to focus on school when your basic needs (food, shelter and safety) have not been met.
We can’t always control what happens outside of school, so we have to make our campuses safe, loving environments where kids feel welcomed.
Please remember that most small communities have a church or central locations where you can donate items or refer families in need. The links below are resources for students or families in need.