Well dear readers, it’s been a while. I’ve been working myself silly with starting a new job as an Elementary School librarian while at the same time, I’ve been taking three college courses from three universities which each use their own student work platform and I completed a 6 credit practicum/internship as a librarian. Suffice it to say, it was a stressful and a ton of work, but I have finished the courses and the endorsement paperwork is at the university and will hopefully be making its way through the Virginia Department of Education. Then, I will be a fully certified school librarian! Yippee!
Now that I have been working in an elementary school for many months again, I’ve started to think about preteens and kids who all become teens. In the past five years, I have been fully focused on teens as a unique age group with their own challenges and strengths.
The school where I work is a Title 1 school. For our school, that means that 72% of our students receive free or reduced lunch and 54% are English language learners. It’s a diverse group of students in a diverse community. We have great programs that aim to help parents learn English, provide financial and counseling assistance to families, and soon we’ll have an after school program to offer enrichment to some of our students.
The library is right next to our Parent Liason’s office. She works hard every day to connect parents and students to community resources and coordinates a weekend food program for families to help them get the food they need over weekends and breaks when kids don’t receive free breakfast and lunch.
At the same time, I see parents who need more. Kids who need more support and more connection. Many of the staff at our school would like to do more to have students ready to read with a stable place to live, secure food sources, and parents who are financially secure.
What’s missing in much of this, I think is an intentional community resource. The Elementary school is where so many families who are new to this country learn customs and exchange customs with classmates and other families. It’s where some parents find help and others march on seemingly alone.
Why couldn’t our schools become centers for community resources? So many parents have to come to school to get help, ask questions, meet teachers, and other parents and even use our school based child care, wouldn’t it make sense to have a formal community center located in the school? I know that there are many resources throughout the community, but transportation to many places is so time consuming and difficult wouldn’t it make more sense to have one place that is at least a starting point to find resources? Wouldn’t that reach more families directly? It would build trust within the community and within the school community. I don’t for a second think I am the only one or the first one to think of this, but it did occur to me independently and now I can’t get it out of my head.
If we did this, we could then have similar services in middle and high schools. Resources to help families in financial need, but also to help with counseling, finding activities and mentors, and whatever else makes sense for the community where the school is located.
For one thing, many of these services already exist. One of the biggest obstacles is tracking down the information and then the people who can help.
Schools seem like exactly the right places to center family health and well-being resources. If it was the norm to go to a school to find the right help, stigmas might be erased and school staff and parents might see each other in a less adversarial way.
The more I think about this, the more strongly I feel.
We all need help. We can all offer help.
Sometimes finding each other is the hardest part.