Since Lakeside has programs for so many students who have a variety of needs, we occasionally run into the problem of homelessness among our students. It is such a challenging situation for them and can have great impact on their ability to function in school.
How student homelessness can affect learning
Here is an article by Beth McCullough (GradNation) that raises awareness of this significant issue. (This story is part of the “90 for All” series, which examines the challenges facing traditionally underserved students, particularly low-income and homeless students, English-language learners, students of color and students with disabilities.)
“Are you excited about starting school? It is your senior year, after all,” I said in my best “Rah, Rah, let’s go team!” voice.
She shrugged, “Not really. I don’t like being the new girl. Kids don’t talk to you—but they talk about you.”
She went to many schools before entering our doors. Her life has been a series of challenges from the very day she was born, and she is still here, still fighting, still succeeding.
She knows how to succeed in school even when she is bullied, even when she is new, even when her mother promised to send her school clothes and none came. She knows how to negotiate living situations that involve many people in one house with difficult dynamics between all of them. She knows who is fighting today and who she needs to stay away from.
These are skills we don’t measure on state assessment tests.
If they did, here are the kinds of questions they might ask:
- You are living with your sister’s boyfriend’s parents. You are allowed to sleep on the couch unless someone else is sleeping there. List three places that you might sleep as an alternative.
- Which of the following typically require a birth certificate even if you are homeless? a) a food pantry, b) a soup kitchen, c) school when enrolling, d) the emergency room. (The answer in our area is the food pantry. The others do not require a birth certificate, and most of my unaccompanied youth know that.)
- True or False: If you are couch surfing, you should tell all of your teachers about your situation so they know that if you are not in class, it is because you didn’t have a ride.
My new girl knows the answers to all of these questions and a hundred more.
Although they will never show up on state assessment tools, she is tested on these questions almost daily. She just isn’t getting credit for it.
For a personal look at what it’s like to be a homeless student, read “None of My Teachers Knew I was Homeless. They Should Have.” For information on how to support homeless students, visit the report, Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools.
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Survival Skills in and out of the classroom
This is another of those often ignored, impactful, significant issues in our youth culture. We should never assume that a student has a place to live even though we would think student homelessness is not possible in our country.
Homelessness is more prevalent than we think, and it causes a host of issues for families and their children. I am so appreciative of GradNation raising awareness for such a difficult set of circumstances for our students.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network