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“If you don’t understand how to reach a child, your intellect and your content knowledge will mean nothing.”

As an educator, it’s sometimes difficult to know the challenges their students face outside of the classroom. Some students have a parent that’s incarcerated or parents that are rarely home. Some students show up to school hungry and malnourished. Some students are effectively left to act as a head-of-the-household for their siblings.

For years, Mississippi principal, Kristina Pollard, has worked with students facing unimaginable hurdles at home and she’s learned that her students’ social-emotional issues can manifest into inappropriate behavior.

Equally as important, she knows that some of her teachers may begin at her school without a clear perspective on the challenges her students face.

Pollard says that there are some things they do, to try to help with that.

“Like taking our teachers on a bus ride at the beginning of the year so they can actually see where their children are living,” says Pollard.

She says some of her teachers are at a loss of words after the ride and there are other teachers who come from similar backgrounds that are not shocked. But either way, the goal is to formulate ideas on how to connect with those children.

“If you don’t understand how to reach a child, your intellect and your content knowledge will mean nothing.”

Pollard says you might be living check to check as a teacher. But you know where your next meal is coming from and you have gas in your car and you can go do your laundry.

Pollard says, “We have children that are sleeping on the floor, that don’t have windows, there’s plywood up. And we don’t know what they’re eating. They don’t have a regular meal, dinner time at 5:00, and homework at 6:00.”

Those little things we take for granted are missing for a lot of children.

Using Restorative Practices

Disciplining children that are facing trauma at home can be difficult for administrators. Teachers typically handle the initial discipline, but when the child is referred to the principal the administrator needs to use restorative practices.

“Sometimes we issue consequences or none at all and that is infuriating and upsetting to teachers,” says Pollard.

But Pollard says she gets to talk to the students and get to the root of the issue.

“If they can’t read. If they’re embarrassed to talk because they have a speech impediment. If their parents or mom and boyfriend have been physically fighting all night,” says Pollard.

We have to make decisions that are best for children, not always what the policy says.

To hear our full interview with Pollard and learn how she uses Restorative Practices when working with students. Listen to Episode 151 of the Class Dismissed Podcast on your favorite podcast app or iTunes.

Other Show Notes

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Maryland’s COVID-19 Recover Plan for Education

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