I’ve been doing a great deal of reflecting these days (as I always do), but this has been a bit different. I usually reflect upon my practise, decisions, teaching, leadership, parenting, and relationships. Last night, with all that has been happening at my school lately, I did a lot of reflecting on the students at my school.
As I have written about in the past, I work as a Vice-Principal at an Inner-City school. While there are struggles in all schools to a degree, there are so many here. It’s not the academic struggles that had me thinking last night (although the academic needs here are great), but, rather, the personal struggles of our students and our reactions to these struggles.
To be effective and truly make a difference in the lives of these children (all children), we need to open our hearts and take these kids in. For many, the struggles are so great at home. We try our best to manage their struggles and help them at school with respect to these challenges. Some of these struggles and our responses to them include:
- Lack of proper nutrition (We have a lunch program for those who do not have food at home. We are also a part of the District research initiative, Attendance Matters, which includes a breakfast program.)
- Inadequate clothing (We have a clothing exchange that happens in our school twice a year where the parents can come to the school and choose any items of clothing they want – for free. In addition, we sponsored many families at Christmas and tried to ensure that the children (and their parents) had proper coats, toques, mittens, socks, etc…)
- Lack of parental supervision, particularly after school (We are fortunate to be a Community School so many of our students have opportunities to participate in after school activities. Currently, we have a number of programs in operation: Open Gym, Lego Robotics, Floor Hockey, Basketball, Hip Hop, and a Mentorship program. Our students truly need these opportunities and benefit from them greatly.
- Emotional Difficulties – including neglect and emotional abuse from their loved ones (We have a great counsellor and 2 child care workers who do wonderful work with our students, their families, and our staff. We are also very fortunate to have effective district support from behavioural specialists, district counsellors and other support staff.
- Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse (These are difficult to deal with, however, we have our responsibility to report any and all abuse which we are aware – either through disclosures or knowledge of this abuse in some other way – to the Ministry of Children and Families.)
We may not be privy to all that is happening in a child’s life, and I, as an administrator am probably aware of more than others, but, it is my hope that we would be sensitive toward our students and understand that not all kids can be dealt with in the same manner. We need to open our heart as educators and understand that school is often the safest place for these students. We provide them with so much that they are not provided with at home: security, routine, emotional and physical safety, understanding, warmth – physical and emotional, and education. We can not underestimate the effect we are having with every child every day.