“Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. Nine times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry, it will break your heart.”
This was the last slide presented by the last speaker at the 2017 National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth conference. If I didn’t know it before, the collective “Amen!” in the room when this slide was shown, let me know that I was in a room full of like-minded partners from across the country; a room of school employees, community partners and community collaborators that work closely with children experiencing homelessness each and every day. People that understand the plight of those children, and work day in and day out to ensure those children the best chance at academic success.
It is hard to summarize the impact of this conference on myself and the team I work with. The variety of breakout sessions offered, the diversity of the general session speakers, the informal conversations over meals…all of it challenged me to think about what we do at School on Wheels, how we do what we do, and most importantly, reminded me why we do what we do. Speakers handed out loads of data and statistics. Numbers that, if you really let them sink in, break your heart.
• There are 1.2 million homeless children under the age of 6 in the United States
• Over 80% of all homeless children under age 6 in our country do not have the privilege to go to school
• 75% of preschoolers experiencing homelessness have at least one major developmental delay; 40% have two or more
And these statistics just show the reality for our youngest learners experiencing homelessness. It can be incredibly overwhelming. However, at the same time as I was wrestling with numbers like that, I was encouraged. We heard from Chris Heeter, a dog sled racer from Minnesota (look her up, you’ll be inspired). I am certain you are wondering what in the world she had to offer to a room full of people that work with children experiencing homelessness. Here’s what it is: she encouraged us. She reminded us how incredibly important our work is. And she assured us that in order to do our work well, we would have to be wild! Here is what she meant:
• Be wildly present
• Be wildly welcoming
• Be wildly inspiring
• Be wildly original
• Be wildly generous
If our work culture and our personal work ethic can be described as above, we can tackle the challenge of ensuring academic success for children experiencing homelessness. Attending the NAEHCY 2017 Conference was truly an honor, a challenge and an encouragement.
If you would like to join the fight in being wildly present, welcoming, inspiring, original, and generous to make a difference, apply to tutor today.