There were six school-aged children who lived together. Five of the children attended school regularly. They came to school like the average kid, dressed in clean clothes and appeared to eat daily. The truth was they all lived in an abandoned home. While the five children were attending school regularly, the sixth sold drugs daily. Sounds familiar… It should it is a story from “The Wire.”
I was watching episode 6 of the Wire where Michael B Jordan’s character, Wallace, was living in an abandoned home with about five other school-aged children. These children were elementary school-aged and reporting to school regularly, while Wallace sold drugs. This obviously was a troubling sight. At the time, I was in bed sick with COVID. So, while I was already feeling horrible, this made me feel worse. Why? Cause this isn’t just a story present in a TV show. This story is very much real. We still don’t know enough about our students and their living situations. Here we have six school-aged children who needed support. They were not living with their parents or any family members. They were staying in abandoned homes. They did not have access to healthy meals or basic needs. To make matters worse, it was clear that no one at their school knew about this.
While this story’s relevancy is apparent, I am not couched in the sadness or blaming the system. I use this story as a teachable moment and call to action. Here is what I learned/ am reminded about from “The Wire.”
- There remains a major gap in knowledge of students’ lived experiences.
- Blight and poverty remain ever-present under our noses and we often do not know to what extent.
- Students’ basic needs are unmet.
- The “vacants” aren’t vacant. Some of our students are homeless and live in these abandoned homes.
- Parent/family engagement needs to be inclusive of community engagement as some of our students are without parent/family support.
These lessons and reminders drive the work I do daily. I am driven to always consider students at the individual level. While the scholar in me starts with the numbers, I know it is the individual lived experience that is most telling about the barriers that students are experiencing. We must identify barriers in order to best design our supports. Interventions that don’t directly address barriers don’t work. Further, incentives that don’t address barriers won’t work.
The work we do at Concentric creates opportunities for schools and school districts to bridge gaps in parent, family, and community engagement. Our charge is to capture as much information as possible about what students are experiencing and get that information back to schools so that students can get the support they need. We know that our services aren’t “one size fits all.” However, our services when properly paired with a school-based team, the sky is the limit.
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