I just read an article on npr about students who live in poverty and the negative impact prolonged breaks have on them. The point of the article is to help teachers see the need, and be the support these kids hunger for as they transition back to the structure of school.
Funny thing is I just had this conversation with one of my colleagues that I carpool with, she was expressing frustration at a certain students sudden negative change in behavior. I suggested that she reach out to the family to see if everything was okay and explained that I often see increases in negative behavior right before and after a break. She seemed enlightened and expressed that she would make that call to see what she could do to help.
You see many of my students live in poverty and the many social ills that go along with it, as a double whammy they also have learning disabilities. This could be as minor as ADHD or high functioning autism to more severe blind or hard of hearing disabilities or emotional disturbance. Issues that have often held them back from experiencing a normal childhood, feeling confident in themselves and their academic abilities. They desperately need support and to feel valued. Home is not always that place for them. School time means they get reprieve from that turmoil. They have some friends and staff that really care about them and make them feel loved. They are guaranteed at least one meal. This is all they have sometimes.
During break this all goes away, and many students act out in response to the stressors they might experience with out the support system they have found in school.
If you’re a teacher, try to remember this as you struggle with certain students behavior. Get to know your students, their home life might be difficult and a small word of encouragement can go a long way to fix issues in the classroom.
If you’re a parent, I hope you know that there is support for you. Moral support from many of the staff your student interacts with; seek it out. Other social services that can help you with needs that feel overwhelming. Counseling. Guidance on short term financial support. Whatever you need, staff at schools should know where to direct you. We teachers love your children and do our best to support them, but it helps if you tell us what they are dealing with at home.
As I prepare myself to head back to work after a three week break I’m nervously anticipating behavior problems. Is it hard for me? Yes. But I will handle it with the utmost compassion and patience as I re-establish rules and procedures and reconfirm my desire to support all of my students; relationally and academically.
Thank you for allowing me to teach your children, they are the best and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in a few days. I will be kind and firm, and they will be themselves again in no time.