With the holiday season upon us, it beseeches us to take time to be reflective. In the school setting, it is extremely important to think about complex family structures and individual student dynamics that make up our school population.
During this time of year, emotions run high with excitement and anticipation, as well as disappointment and anxiousness. Staff experience all of that with their students. We should be conscious of the student as well as the family that is not enamored with the thought of a two-week break from school and impending expectations that go along with the season for numerous reasons. Com-passion and understanding in school are necessary to ensure that students feel safe in a predictable environment that supports them academically and emotionally. Both are necessary in fostering not only the student’s learning but also their overall development. In preparing students for these times of separation and at times uncertainty, schools must be attuned to the feelings and needs of their students. Not only do students need academic instruction but also instruction on the coping skills needed for daily life. There has been a concerted effort by Arlington Public Schools in creating a community that is welcoming, affirming and safe.
Each student has unique learning styles, personal strengths and cultural backgrounds. Each school endeavors to celebrate these differences and acknowledges that each student comes with a unique background and set of experiences. The school staff and administration looks beyond the surface to consider what factors might be at work in the student’s life.
Teachers use attentive listening and seek solutions to remove barriers that students face. These teachers know that learners cannot meet academic goals until their basic human needs are met physically and emotionally. We must be good listeners, compassionate and non-judgmental. So, when you see a child, think twice and reflect on what they bring to any situation. Seek first to understand; Arlington Public Schools staff have taken this lesson to heart.
Kathy Ehman is assistant superintendent of Arlington Public Schools. The column runs monthly.