California Educator

December/January 2021

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Page 32 of 67

Aliza Cruz teaches at a school for students who are homeless. Kathleen Loyd instills a feeling of family with her kindergarten students. K Y L E A T T E N D S Monarch School in San Diego, a K-12 school for students who are homeless. Most stu- dents experience chronic trauma, say staff. "We have students who have been homeless for years and students who were middle-class but expe- rienced a big shift and became suddenly homeless," says Aliza Cruz, a high school science teacher at Monarch. " There are victims of sexual abuse, students exposed to drug and alcohol use from adults, and students suffering addiction themselves." K A T H L E E N L O Y D , a kindergarten teacher at Mon- arch and San Diego County Association of Educators member, has heard 5-year-olds talk about drug deals, seeing their parents get high, physical abuse, and parental incarceration like it was no big deal. " The trauma they 've experienced definitely "The biggest thing I hear is that these students feel they don't matter. You have to let them know that they do." 1. Let them know you care 2. Understand the culture of trauma The best way for teachers to help students experiencing chronic trauma, including homelessness, is showing caring and compassion and fostering relationships with them, says Cruz, a member of San Diego County Association of Educators. "A lot of them feel it's them against the world, and they hold you at arm's length. But once they make that connection to you, they trust you deeply and are very loyal. It takes work and effort to build that trust. You have to take the time to get to know them as individuals." It also means checking your assumptions at the door. For exam- ple, a student confided to her that at another school, a teacher refused to accept a handwritten essay the student had written under a streetlamp, because the teacher thought the student was too lazy to type. "You have to refer these students to resources such as counseling, one-to-one tutoring or sports. Don't lower your expectations for them, because it is doing them a disservice. Help them understand that they have strengths and a future, and they have power and a voice. " The biggest thing I hear is that these students feel they don't matter. You have to let them know that they do." "I show them repeatedly that they can trust me, so they can switch from a survival culture to a culture of learning." affects their behavior and overall quality of life," says Loyd. " There is a culture to homelessness that nobody really speaks about. There are norms, rules and expectations that people engage in when living among a homeless population. "For example, many mothers expect their children to physically fight and defend themselves against others. In the 31 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0 / J A N U A R Y 2 0 21

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