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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Caring Well for Children

It's true that many families in the United States struggle to care for their children. There are many reasons why they struggle, and some of those reasons include the following:
  • Work demands that leave them without time or energy
  • Low pay that leaves them without sufficient funds to well feed, clothe, or house their children
  • Relationship struggles which at their worst include violence, fear, and lack of safety
  • Drug addiction
  • Illness and health needs in a culture without adequate support for the sick
  • Mental health issues without adequate care or support
  • Immigration-related fears and issues
  • Death--untimely deaths of family members create struggle and need
Know Students and Families Well 
As educators, what can we do about this. First, we have to know our students and families well. While we don't want to intrude on families' privacy, we do need to let families know that the better we know them and their children, the better we can serve their needs and potential. By carving out good time at the start of the year for two-way conversations with families, we will be able to serve children and families better.

Looping
Looping may help us too. When we teach students for only one year, we lose capacity. For example it takes a couple of months to know a child and family so every year there's that two-month get-to-know-you-time, if you loop, you will know families better in good time and then have more time to serve those families. The challenge here is the depth you need to teach a curriculum program well and it may be difficult to loop and include good depth too. I think we can successfully loop at the elementary level and that might mean a K-1, 2-3, 4-5 looping at my school to better our relationships and efforts with each and every student. Looping may save time and build capacity overall. Studies have shown this to be true.

Provide Supports
We need to look for ways to provide better supports in ways that matter. Some of these supports may include the following:
  • Free breakfast and lunch with or without forms. At times families don't want to fill out forms for all kinds of reasons.
  • Affordable, accessible quality before- and after-school care that includes sports and the arts.
  • Holistic programs that appeal to all aspects of who children are, not just narrow programs.
  • Parenting support and coaching
  • Integrated, readily accessible physical- and mental-health care. Let's allow students to use their health cards/funds at school for better health care and social-emotional support and care.
Lead With the Voices of All Stakeholders
Fully integrate the voices of children, families, educators, administrators, and community members in the leadership and choices related to all school efforts.

Prevention
We can do a lot to prevent unhealthy behavior in the following ways:
  • healthy food only
  • good regulations related to prescription drugs, guns, healthy food, cigarettes, driving, drinking, and more
  • lots of healthy, positive learning and activity
  • quality care and support 
Fair and Healthy Work Conditions for Educators and Care Givers
Often care givers and educators' ability to serve students and families is compromised by low pay and poor work conditions. In some schools educators are working with too many students at a time to truly care for any one student in the ways needed. I have a friend who has thirty students in her city school classroom and many of those students suffer from social-emotional struggles. She cannot possibly teach all those students and provide the needed social-emotional support. Her community is letting her down and her students down. Often pre-school teachers' pay is horrible thus creating challenges for those educators who may then not have the time or energy to teach their young and vulnerable students well. In every community, educators and care givers' work conditions have to be considered carefully. It's essential that care givers and educators have what they need in order to teach and care for children and families with as much capacity as possible.