Monday, September 28, 2015

Give me your tired, your poor....

She came to visit me on the third day of school. I was overjoyed to see her, a sophomore this year. She had had trouble making friends an avoided the lunchroom as a ninth grader.  I was hoping that this would be a better year for her.

She greeted me with a big smile and a hug, and I told her I was glad to see her. Then I asked, “How was your summer?”

“Crazy!” she said.

I asked about it, and she sat down and said, “Well, my dad had to go to prison this summer. Since he had to go to prison, I had to go stay with my mom and grandma. I don’t get along with my mom or grandma; my grandma doesn’t like me. I had to stay a weekend with them, and I had to stay in the house the whole time and my mom and grandma yelled and said mean and nasty stuff to me.”

For the student above, school is a refuge for her. She has made connections with a few students and she feels safe and cared for at school. She tries hard in her classes, and she wants to go to college.

But unless her basic needs are met, she won't be able to learn all that she needs to learn in order to be prepared for college.

The number of students like the one above is growing -- students who need stability, a caring environment, and an opportunity to create a future unlike the present in which they live.

We must find a way to connect with every student, listen to their story, and ensure that basic needs are met before we can optimize their learning potential.

We can use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to evaluate our programs. How would we go about doing that? What questions need to be asked?

Here are some starter questions:
  • Does our school offer a breakfast program? Should we?
  • Is there something we need to put into place to ensure our students' physiological needs are met?
  • Do our teachers use proactive and positive classroom management techniques?
  • Is our staff consistent with enforcing school rules?
  • How do we connect students to adults in the building?
  • Are teachers creating community within their classrooms?
  • Are our teachers using sarcasm?
  • Are we teaching and modeling a growth mindset?

And the student who visited me in my office?

I could call her an "at-risk" student, but I prefer to use the term used by Rosa Perez-Isiah... I'll use "At-promise" instead.


  1. how I love your last line, and "at-promise" student. Such a great post and great questions to consider!

    1. I'm so glad that Maggie Bolado told me about Rosa's name for "at-promise" students! Thank you for stopping by and reading.

  2. I'm going to start using "at-promise" instead of "at-risk" as well! It focuses on the positive instead of the negative potentials.


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jon. I, too, have made a commitment to call students "at-promise." Students rise to our expectations!