California Educator

December/January 2021

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Page 37 of 67

e CTS report includes seven key findings: 1. Current professional capacity to support students experiencing homelessness is inadequate: com- prehensive, targeted and coordinated training is needed. 2. Homeless liaisons are struggling to ef fectively respond to growing needs in their community, requiring more resources and staffing. 3. e prevalence of Latinx and Black students expe- riencing homelessness requires more racially and culturally responsive strategies in education prac- tice and policy. 4. Students experiencing homelessness are often over- looked or misunderstood in school settings, which can result in negative educational experiences. 5. B ett er c o ordin ation i s n e ed ed b etw e en chi l d welfare, housing and education stakeholders to alleviate barriers for students and families. 6. Community-based organizations and nonprofits provide a critical function as part of an ecosystem of support for students and can get resources to families quickly. 7. The bookends of education, early education and higher education, are an essential part of a coor- dinated response to student homelessness, from cradle to college. e report also discusses the impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis on students who are homeless and the critical role schools play in providing support. Find- ing students in need is even more difficult during the pandemic — another report identified nearly 30 percent less students who are homeless than last year, increasing concerns that many are falling through the cracks. Feature How Educators Can Keep the Focus on Learning Jennifer Ortiz W E A S K E D O U R 10th grade English students to write about a core memory, experiences that had deeply impacted them. Nearly half of our 188 students wrote about having endured trauma. Their memories included homelessness, extreme poverty, neglect and abuse. One of our students shared how his family had been homeless for the last year, moving from family member to family member and in and out of motels. As with the rest of our students, this gave us great insight into his life and gave a new meaning to his failing grades and numerous suspensions. Our job is to teach English, but how do you get a student to care about Shakespeare or argumentative essays when their basic human needs are not being met? Why should they care about making sure they are "a-g" eligible if they don't know where they are going to sleep that night? Jessica and I saw a great opportunity to broaden our scope of practice to meet the diverse academic, social and mental health needs of our students, and we took it upon ourselves to do quite a bit of research and soul search- ing to feel confident and qualified to do so. One observation we made when executing trauma-informed instruction was our students' use of maladaptive coping strategies to deal with their traumas. Their gravitation toward self-soothing by misuse/abuse of alcohol and drugs, disasso- ciating with excessive screen time, poor eating and sleeping patterns, and self-harm resulted in severe disengagement from school. We wanted to do our part, as the adults that see them daily, to help heal some of the pain that was hindering their ability to learn. Ortiz, left, and MacCaskey, right, created a classroom that flourished with inclusiveness and laughter. "How do you get a student to care about Shakespeare or argumentative essays when their basic human needs are not being met?" 36

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