Sunday, March 25, 2018

Underserved Children

We can't do enough for our children. There is almost always something more we can do for children we teach and children we parent, but there are some children who are clearly underserved and those children demand our attention.

When it comes to underserved children, we must first determine if their basic needs are met. Do they have adequate clothing, food, shelter, and health care, and if not, how can we help out.

Next, we have to think about their social-emotional welfare. Are these children getting the love and attention they need or are they facing situations of grave social-emotional strife and need? What can we do to make sure children are getting the social emotional support they need so that they feel good about themselves and have what it takes to self-advocate, persevere, and access needed supports?

Then we have to think about opportunity and development. Do these children have the opportunity to develop in ways that make them happy and successful? Typically where I teach most students' basic needs and social-emotional needs are met by loving families and a good standard of living, but when it comes to opportunity that's an area that is more complex, and sometimes more difficult to meet due to budgets, transportation, schedules, staffing, understanding, and more. This is a case-by-case analysis of how we can do better by every child.

Sometimes the way we use staffing can be improved to better serve children? This demands a hard, statistical look at time and resources to determine if we are utilizing staffing in ways that mitigate opportunity gaps and provides every child with a good chance of academic success and opportunity. When we feel a child is not getting what he/she deserves by way of academic support, we need to speak up and re-look at what we're doing to find ways to do better. Ideally metrics are in place to determine staffing based on needs rather than numbers alone so that children do get the supports they need when they need it. Fidelity to schedules and expectations also matters in this realm. For example are staff members showing up when assigned, and if not, why not? How can that change?

Further, when we think of mitigating the opportunity gap to give every child what they need, we have to think about how we use time and resources. Are we over-giving to those who already have substantial services and support while under-providing to those who have great or different needs? We have to think about each and every action we do to determine if it is well directed or not. What are we doing and why are we doing it? Is our time well structured so that we are making a substantial difference and impact for all students not just some. These are essential questions we have to answer repeatedly as the school year rolls out.

Good time for good, holistic and inclusive assessment and analysis of our programs have to exist. When assessment and analysis is narrow and exclusive, same problems continue to exist, but when all stakeholders are invited into this process, good change happens.

Our nation depends on our efforts to better serve underserved children--that is an important aspect of our job as educators. What can we do to help each other live up to this important expectation? I am thinking about this.