I have a girl in my class with a sweet smile and a great deal of spirit. She comes in most days cheerful, but as the year has progressed she has lost some of her chipper spirit. Her grades have slipped and she is not focusing in class. After handing back papers I took a moment to talk with her about her low test score. I asked her how she had studied and if her mother had reviewed any of the material with her. She looked at me and said, “My mom doesn’t have much time to help me, because she spends all her time yelling at my dad. They are getting a divorce.”
Everyone has experienced or knows someone who has had a family that has been torn apart. Kids naturally look to their parents to provide them with help and security. When this family environment blows apart children experience stresses that can consume their emotional and mental strength.
As teachers we cannot fix the home environments that our students are coming from, but we can make an effort to understand our students. As we understand what is going on at home, we can better understand why the students are acting the way they are at school. Once we have this knowledge we can begin to develop support to meet the needs of our struggling students.
For the little girl in my class I know that I have to work hard to maintain her attention and I might have to recue her at times. I’m going to provide extra tutoring opportunities since she will not be getting help at home. It also brings home to me how important our classroom culture is. I have to create a caring environment where my students feel safe. I can’t change the hurt my students experience at home, but for 7 hours a day I can provide my students with attention, encouragement, and the skills they will need to be successful.