Friday, June 22, 2018

When Families Struggle: Educate and Support Rather than Blame

There's a temptation to blame families and children who struggle. As educators we can become frustrated with families that don't seem to help their children in ways that we know are positive. Yet to blame these families rather than educate and help those families is simply wrong.

Blame often arises out of frustration--one might simply not know what to do when a child appears unsupported and a family unresponsive. Of course if there are signs of abuse or mistreatment, educators have to contact the authorities since we are mandated reporters, but more often than not, the kind of struggle that frustrates and leads to blame are related to small matters of unreadiness or lack of support related to school and life success.

So what's a teacher to do?

First, make a promise that you will never blame a child or family, but instead work to support and educate that child and his/her family.

Next, do all that you can to form a positive relationship with the child and family. Going the extra mile to support the child before, after, or during school will prove to be a terrific investment in relationship building, and that relationship building will go a long way to helping families and children get and provide the supports they need. This kind of extra time will also help you to know the child and family better and to serve that child and family through their interests, abilities, and other capacities.

Also reach out to others in the school seeking their support, experience, and ability to help. For example this year I reached out to the guidance counselor on one discouraged afternoon, and she had the perfect advice for me, advice that helped me to see a situation differently and do better.

We also may need to put the regular agenda aside for a while to teach to a child's strengths and interests to build that important relationship and then when the relationship is strong, you will have the buy-in to meet the standards' expectations.

On these last days of school I am thinking of ways to better the work I do, and to educate rather than blame struggling families and students is an important lesson that all educators have to revisit at the start of each school year. Onward.