Recently, a certain video began making its way through my social media feeds. It contains a brief clip of a 10-year-old student using a department store tablet to do his homework. Apparently, the young boy didn’t have internet access, so the store employees invited him inside to use theirs. The video has since gone viral and prompted a great deal of feedback. Many viewers have found it encouraging, a bit of kindness showing humanity at its best, while others have argued about excessive homework and diminished resources in schools.
Now, like most stories, this one has layers (for example: this event happened in Brazil, not America). Nevertheless, it got me thinking. We educators work hard to make our classrooms an empowering place for students, but what about the outside? How do we encourage and support our pupils once they step outside our door? This is no small question, in part because it opens the door to everything from school lunches to the future of education itself. Still, there are a few simple actions we can take to help students in the here and now.
Libraries & Resources
Let’s start with the basics. Do your students have all the necessary resources they require to study the day’s lesson and complete their homework? Like the boy from Brazil, not everyone has access to the internet. Some students lack books or the supplies they need to keep up with their classmates. If this is the case, one solution is to ensure they have access to the school and local libraries.
Libraries offer free internet and books, a quiet place to study, and friendly librarians who are more than happy to lend a hand. Some libraries have even begun hiring social workers to assist visitors from lower-income backgrounds. While it might not solve every problem, libraries are still an invaluable asset, and they can serve as a useful foothold for students outside the classroom.
Afterschool Activities & Tutoring
A second option is to explore afterschool activities. Is one of your students struggling with math or English-language arts? Try to connect them with an afterschool tutoring program. Tutors can assist students with their work and give them the focus they may not be getting at home. These afterschool sessions will also allow your students to take advantage of school resources like internet, books, and study supplies.
One shouldn’t discount sports teams, drama clubs, or special groups either. Aside from letting students explore their interests and exercise their natural talents, these programs also provide structure and build confidence. More and more we’re discovering how important social-emotional learning is to modern education. Why not supply your kids with an outlet for learning and emotional growth?
Lastly, but certainly not least, we have simple acts of encouragement. Part of being a teacher means being your student’s champion. Get to know them, their hobbies and interests. Listen to them when they’re having a really bad day. Help them overcome failures by showing them how to learn from their mistakes. We should never underestimate how words of affirmation can shape a student’s development.
As educators, we will never be able to solve every problem for our students, nor should we. Those who try frequently find themselves overwhelmed or burnt out from the stresses of life. What we can do is give them every possible opportunity to learn, grow, and mature as individuals. We can supply them with the tools and surroundings they need to flourish, while encouraging them to recognize their own potential. That way, even when they leave our classrooms, they will always be prepared!