It's a beautiful sunny day in southeast Michigan. I once again have a snow day. We didn't have school yesterday, but did have a PD day. My morning was spent discussing students in poverty. As we began to analyze data last year, we saw a growing trend. Most of our under performing students are in low socio-economic status.
When the economy took a nose dive a few years ago, we began to see an ever growing number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Although economists say we have reached the bottom and are climbing up, statistics in our community don't reflect national trends. Currently over 40% of our students are living in what is classified as poverty. As teachers, we see students coming to school hungry, wearing ill-fitting clothes. They don't have help on homework, and parents are not present at conferences. It is easy to say it is because the parent doesn't care. In reality, a growing number of students are home alone as the parent or parents work two jobs to provide for the same lifestyle manufacturing jobs use to provide. Many are working at minimum wage or slightly higher, but cannot afford childcare. Some are homeless, sleeping at relatives homes.
When the parents are home, they are tired. They may be short-tempered, or "mad at the world." The student is left to do hope work alone, if they choose to do it at all. Schools often are the only meal providers, warm shelter, or nurturing place the child has. Absenteeism and tardiness increase along with stress induced illness.
I challenge you, as I challenge myself, make a difference in the life of those children. Greet each child you see with a smile. Let them know you are glad they are there. Teach the child problem solving skills, how to handle their own anger, and the social skills that used to be taught in every home. This maybe the only chance we get to make that difference, to break the cycle. Be inclusive and not exclusive, by referring to the school and room as "ours" to give them a sense of belonging. Teach them to attend to the task at hand. Give them a reason to want to learn. Give time to complete homework in class or during recess when they have access to an adult that can help. Give them healthy choices, and encourage exercise and movement. The children will thank you.
Make a difference today and tomorrow.