Supporting our students who are not looking forward to winter break.
For many of us the holiday season is truly like the Andy Williams tune the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Many of our Rochester Public School students are anxiously anticipating the ten-day winter break from classes. They have holiday plans, will participate in family traditions, festive meals and parties, visit relatives, attend seasonal events, travel and have time to just play with friends and possibly new toys they have received. Looking forward to these things can be exciting. However, as teachers with classrooms of diverse students, we need to be mindful that for some students this is not the case.
Most teachers are very aware of the cultural diversity within their classroom and try to address the holiday season with cultural sensitivity by not promoting one holiday over another. Nevertheless, how can we support the students that are just not looking forward to being away from school for such an extended period? As Trevor Muir wrote in his blog: Not All Students Look Forward to the Holidays:
“While most kids (and teachers!) flee from the school gleefully on the last day, [there are some] that dread the break from school. They miss the structure of the school day; the stability of the classroom: the presence of friends; the free food in the cafeteria; and the love their teachers give them.”
If we take a moment to pause and think about it, it is my guess that each teacher could think of students they work with that will have these feelings of dread for the approaching break. These students do not have family events to look forward to, they will not be receiving gifts, some will wonder who will care for them and others will wonder from where they will get their next meal.
So how can we best support these students? The following is a list (compiled from suggestions from the resources cited below) of ways we can support our most vulnerable students during this time.
Be the listener your students need
Talk privately with your students about what they might be doing over the break so you know which students may need emotional support or help with resources to get them through this time.
Be aware of how you talk about winter break
In his blog, Trevor Muir has excellent advice about how to be sensitive to all students when you talk about winter break. Change the conversation from “What are you excited about?” and “What are you going to get?” to challenge them about what they might accomplish or who they might be able to help out.
Give students the opportunity to serve
As a class brainstorm a list of ways students could help or serve others during the time off. There is always that good feeling you get when you know you have helped or made a difference for someone else.
Provide resources for our students with the greatest needs
If you have a student(s) with resource needs, connect with your school social workers as they may be aware of a more comprehensive list of community resources. Below are some of our local organizations that provide resources for students and families in need.
As much as we would like to, we cannot make this the most wonderful time of the year for all our students, but with a little thoughtfulness we may be able to make it a little less difficult for those that are struggling.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Not All Students Look forward to the Holidays, Trevor Muir, https://www.weareteachers.com/supporting-students-winter-break/ Dec. 14, 2017
Parenting Kids As much as we would like to, we cannot make this the most wonderful time of the year for all our students, but with a little thoughtfulness we may be able to make it a little less difficult for those that are struggling.
Who Sabotage the Holidays, https://www.thechaosandtheclutter.com/archives/parenting-kids-who-sabotage-holidays
5 Reasons You might NOT Look Forward to the Holidays, http://wisestressmastery.com/5-reasons-holidays/ December 3, 2015
Originally posted on the Secondary C&I website on 2/10/2017
I have two children who are students in the Rochester Public Schools system. My simultaneously shy, but social daughter struggles to balance a busy schedule and homework. My sweet, bright son does well academically, but needs extra guidance when it comes to social situations. Both of my children have a mom and dad cheering them on, advocating endlessly, and fighting the fights they are unable to find the courage to tackle. What I mean to say is my kids are lucky. Really lucky.
Despite the social and academic challenges they face as individuals, my children have everything they need to face the school day with success. They sleep in warm beds at night, have access to food on a daily basis, are provided with reliable transportation, and have available to them all the comforts of home—including a place to do homework. If one is a student who is not as lucky as my children—if one is a student who might not have access to a place to sleep, food, or a home—how do students face the challenges of a school day? How do students do homework when you have no home?
The McKinney-Vento Law is legislation that helps to guide school districts in the process of identifying and serving students who may be experiencing homelessness. At of the date of this post, more than 400 students in Rochester Public Schools have been identified as living in unstable housing situations. These students live in one of our three local shelters, stay in low-cost local hotels, or live with relatives because of an economic hardship. They often lack access to the internet and do not have a reliable device on which to check Moodle, Google Classroom, or Skyward. Beyond the traditional electronic struggles, students experiencing homelessness may not have the basic supplies (like notebooks, backpacks, and art supplies) or a place to keep the items they need to complete the daily work assigned.
As the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator, I work to provide school stability for students whose living situation may not be stable. Through the Transitions Program we can provide transportation to a student’s school of origin, access to free breakfast and lunch at school, access to community resources, assistance with school supplies, and a connection to a student’s school social worker. In addition, RPS works collaboratively with many community resources and organizations that assist with housing, medical and dental needs, food resources, and much more.
In order to provide these resources though, identification is key. There are a few ways that each school professional can help identify students who might be experiencing homelessness. Here are a few tips for educators from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY):
Through identification, we are able to provide support. Through support, we may be able to provide the only stability a student knows. My children have what they need to face the challenges of the school day, imagine what is possible if all students were to have access to what they needed!
Also, for more information on the McKinney-Vento Act, watch this video created by Anoka-Hennepin Schools:
This post brought to you by Melissa Brandt, the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator for Rochester Public Schools
Connect with Melissa Brandt via email or by calling 507.328.4230
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