Holiday reminders for Title One teachers

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With the holidays coming up I thought that writing about some first-hand experiences with Title One kids and the ways they deal with the holidays should be helpful so that we can be more sensitive to their situations. Most of the time we do not know all the details that go into our students’ everyday lives. We see the daily changes in their behavior depending on how their home life is going, but it is rare that they really open up about everything. Holidays should be fun and, most of the time, celebrated with loved ones. Some Title One students who don’t have a lot of loved ones around start to feel anxious and sad going into the holiday season. Here are some useful practices I’ve discovered, things to watch for and ideas on how to support these types of kids every day at school.

 

 

For many kids holidays are just like any other day

When my students are asked what they are doing for Thanksgiving or Christmas, some will reply right away with extravagant plans including their families, but there are a handful who will just say, “Nothing.” 

When I ask them, “you really are not doing anything? Not seeing family or anything?” they will tell me that either their parents have to work and do not have time, or that they won’t see some of the important people in their lives until a later date. I’m sure this can be lonely. Some of their peers will show up after a holiday break and have stories to share or items to show from their break, while often Title One kids have nothing to show for what they did because they were home alone for the majority of the break. I have had a few students in the past say that they did not have any plans and they treat a holiday just like any other day. Keep this in mind when having class discussions both before and after the holiday season.

 

 

It is not just the holiday season that can cause anxiety for a kid

I say this because I have seen so many kids who get stressed or sad when a big life event is coming up and their “support system” at home is not around to celebrate. For example, a basketball player that I coached with a birthday coming up did not have a great home life. I always ask my students what they have planned for their birthdays and this particular student replied that she thought her mom would maybe take her out for dinner. When her actual birthday came I reached out to her and found out that she was sitting at home alone because everyone ended up working. She was very sad and I could tell felt alone. Since I coached this student on the girl’s basketball team I had a closer relationship to her and ended up driving forty-five minutes to pick her up to meet up with some of her teammates for a birthday dinner at the last minute. I could tell that even if I would not have been able to take her to dinner, the fact that I cared meant so much to her. 

From then on I have tried to be very intentional with my conversations with students to find out what is important in their lives and what events may be coming up that they need support with. I also try to tell my students, “Happy birthday!” if we are in school. They always look very surprised that I would know when their birthday is (I just have to do a little research at the beginning of the year). Although this was not a specific holiday, it is something to keep in mind because students’ personal causes for celebration often go unacknowledged - regardless of the time of year. 

 

 

School may be one of the only places where these students are cared for or have role models who are genuinely interested in them

This is sad but often very true. As mentioned above the support system at home may not always be supportive. I’ve met a lot of students who enjoyed coming to school and who sometimes remained there until they were told they had to leave in the late afternoon or early evening. Some that stay late do indeed have responsibilities that require them to stay late, but more often I see students hanging out on campus as long as they can to avoid going home. As educators we can take our role lightly at times regarding communication with our students. I believe if we really know and understand what each of our students go home to everyday that we will have more meaningful conversations everyday because these are the students who need it most. This is even more true when thinking about these students as they head home for extended breaks in the coming weeks. Often some of our Title One students may feel lonely throughout these long breaks from school. Let’s do our best to make them feel valued and let them know that we care for them.

 

 

Kids need structure

A few days before holiday break kids often get restless and their behavior may deteriorate. For some students this may be due to excitement. For others it’s because they know they are leaving a safe, structured environment for time off of school. And this may bring a lot of negative thoughts and feelings. When at school they have a consistent routine; while they may (like any student) talk about looking forward to not having school, if truth be told long breaks from school can promote stress. 

This can also impact them when they return to school as they struggle because they go from having no structure back to having the structure they were missing. One thing we can do for these students is to encourage them to do their best to keep a routine at home, even if they have to create one themselves. Setting aside specific time during each day to do things like read, write, take walks or anything similarly self-supportive will help these students maintain structure throughout a break.

 

 

In response to these concerns we as teachers or employees on a school campus have a great responsibility to impact these students when they are at school. Our words and actions impact them more than we know. Take time to find out what is going on in their lives, what their home life is like and celebrating things with them. These may be some of the best gifts you can give to your Title One students during the holidays. And don’t forget to take time to recharge your own batteries on break so you can return excited and focused!

 

This Connecting Link course, The Growth Mindset and Appreciative Inquiry: Getting the Best from Your Students and Getting Them to Believe in Themselves, provides many strategies to support all students, including Title One students learn to believe in themselves. 


Here are a few classes related to this topic:

Zoe Price
Zoe is a Title 1 High School educator in the Palm Beach County School District, Florida.