Dear Dr. Al
How can teachers help students who may have difficult
home lives become successful?
The easy answer is to do as much in school as can be
done in school. Relieve the children of
as much of the additional stress, on top of the already highly unfair and
stressful home life, as you possibly can.
No homework. Keep schools within
the neighborhood…comfortable, safe, walk-to-school distance. Establish after-school social, academic, and
integrative opportunities. Provide pre-
and post-school meals. Conduct home
visits: teacher, social worker, school psychologist, principal. Anything that takes the additional burden off
the kids would help. I have been in
houses, right here in Madison, where there are no tables, no chairs, no lamps,
no clear space designated for academic pursuit.
I have been in houses, right here in Madison, where the living room
floor and couch double as mattresses…mattresses that have to be given up when
family from Chicago come to visit. I
have been in homes, right here in Madison, where the eldest male or female
child is the parent, picking up his/her younger siblings after school and
caring for them. I have had the
experience, right here in Madison, where a child refused to come to school
because her mother was on dialysis – and she was not going to take the chance
to come home to a dead parent. I have
seen, right here in Madison, where a child had to carry the emotional burden of
walking past his mother everyday on the street on his way to school. Not one of these examples is made-up, and
they are all very current.
Who knows? Mummy
may have to work, or mummy may simply not be available to that challenge.
As much additional stress as you can take off that
child’s slender frame, to help it from bending so dangerously close to
breaking, would be supportive and highly appreciated.
Thank you for your question.