Students can't learn when they have worries that are filling their heads.
I have a student who struggles to use a filter. There is no intention to be mean or rude but sometimes, the things said are misconstrued for rude behavior. Most students just get that this is something this student is working on. They know that all students are working on something and this is this student's challenge. They let any rude words roll off their backs However...
I have a student who is sensitive beyond what seems reasonable. This kiddo is easily hurt. Every word is taken to heart. There is no drama seeking here. When this kiddo feels hurt, the hurt is very real.
I have a student who is impacted by changes in routine or a hectic classroom where voice volumes are loud. When routine changes happen without notice or when the volume rises this kiddo becomes agitated. There is no intention to be difficult. Structure and calm are essential if learning is going to happen. This need is as real as the need for food or water or sleep.
I have a student whose home life is inconsistent and unstable. There is a lot of fighting there. The adults don"t have their acts together and as a result, they aren't able to provide the kind of loving, structured environment where a ten-year old can thrive. No thriving is going on yet. Seven days of school have been missed and we're only 23 days in.
I have a student who has stated that the meds that were taken last year are no longer needed. This kiddo dances about the room and has tremendous difficulty focusing on quiet tasks. This kiddo is worried about progress made as a reader. "I'm not good at reading" is often overheard.
These are some of the kids who show up in my room every day. As much as I might like to jump right into the curriculum each day, I can't. These kids can't learn till they clear their heads of some of the worry. I check in and give kids an opportunity to air out the stuff going on. When I can't meet their needs, and let's face it, I'm one person with 22 little people to serve, I turn to the support staff in my building. But guess what? Getting time with these folks is so challenging. As it turns out, I'm not the only teacher with a handful of kids who have greater than typical social emotional needs. My kids see the school counselor and this year we have the great benefit of having a school resource officer and we have a principal who will pitch hit when the need is great. We need more counselors though. We need behavior specialists. We need more special educators.
I do think that there is a changing demographic. In my 25 years in this same district I have never experienced so many kids who have very legitimate social emotional needs. We need to respond. Our kids deserve it and I'm afraid of the consequences should we let this go. I worry for our kids and I worry for us.