Attendance Blues

I am in the middle of writing reports, and for a small number of children there has been an attendance issue. There are a couple of issues that is a growing trend: poverty and mental health issues for children. I know that the issue of poverty is really quite foreign to many teachers. We don't have to worry about food, about scrambling for new accommodation, about strangers coming into the house to rent a place or stay on the couch.  We used to think that our Eat Well To Excel program wasn't needed at our school, that it was an 'extra', but more and more the boxes are in use for hungry children.

Children of poverty often seem to not pay attention. But, their focus is on survival. They are reading the cues in the environment because they need to notice if someone stressed and about to react. They need to see what is available to them, and not miss it. They are on the look out, because they don't have the energy to focus. They don't show up, because there are many things going on in their lives that take precedence over school.

We need to always be open and vigilant about these 'unseen' problems. The school must report, but we must recognize the need, and our kids are very good at hiding. They are worried about their parents, about everything else going on. We need to make the food available, but not make it feel like a favor or a gift. It isn't. We need to welcome and show genuine kindness and safety for these students.

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