“Fixing underperforming schools” is a much bigger phenomena than we as a state realize. And the responsibility to “fix” this situation is not incumbent upon one entity.
Consider psychological trauma.
It has an enormous impact on families, and more specifically, on the achievement of students we serve each day.
Let’s talk untreated mental illness, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, social isolation, homelessness, a small stomach enduring spasms from hunger, emotional distress from being a witness of physical violence between neighbors or between parents, having to miss days of school due to the incarceration of a parent, the lack of a caregiver for you and your younger siblings, and the feeling of desperation brought about from watching your parent overdose on drugs that were prescribed for you.
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Let’s not forget the lack of appropriate clothing like socks, underwear and coats to keep you warm in the cold winter months, having to wear long sleeves in the summer to cover up the marks on your tender skin from physical lashings received at the hands of your familial supervisor, feelings of anxiety because you have switched your school for the fourth time in the year due to changing foster homes, dealing with the grief and loss of a parent or guardian who has died suddenly from an illness, or even displacement brought about from the lack of employment of your mother, who was suddenly left in financial ruins when she succumbed to mental illness and the lack of treatment for her illness.
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when examining the adverse childhood experiences of our students — experiences that can create lasting effects that are developmentally debilitating, like overwhelming fear, anxiety, depression, emotional/physical pain, mental confusion, grief and loss. The culmination of these effects can leave our students feeling physically, emotionally and cognitively engulfed. Thereafter, many of their relational realities are grounded in feelings of defeat.
Yet, as a society, we expect them to cope just the same and manage to academically perform through it all.
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Because children are born with an instinct to survive, they often find ways to adapt to traumatic experiences in an effort to live. However, the absence of parental guidance in the form of limitless love, support and structure is almost as damning as the effects of physical, sexual, emotional abuse and social and educational neglect.
The social nurturing that our children receive from us as adults is how we equip them for survival and achievement in all areas of development. This is greater than one parent’s responsibility can reach. It will always require a village to insure that our children receive all that they need to become who they are purposed to be in this life. Even in the midst of traumatic experiences, we can nurture them in a way that helps them to not only survive the effects, but negate their lasting impacts.
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When we entertain the idea of “fixing” anything, we must remember that we are talking about lives of real students and not concepts. An “underperforming school” is born of a concept, but an “underperforming student” is a real life. While these are related to one another in theory, they require very different guardianship and management.
We have to become vigilant and seriously committed to the protection of our children from birth. They grow to become our parents who give life, love and support to our students. Essentially, if we want to “fix” something, we should “fix” our efforts toward protecting our most precious resource at all costs. A heavy hand of accountability and responsibility is the only way to insure that our students receive the greatest opportunity to perform and become their personal best.
That social responsibility and parental accountability is not just on the educational system or the justice system, but also the cause of us all — the same parents who were able to endure such traumas and rise above them to meet the occasion of creating better opportunities for our children. It’s A Village Thing! Nothing less will induce the type of resilience necessary to aid our families and children in overturning this “underperforming” phenomenon. It is time for The Village to rise up! We have much work today and we do not have time to waste.
Latascha Craig is the coordinator of the Hubert Hargan Family Resource Center at Foster Traditional Academy.
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