My husband and I live at Community First! Village in Austin, TX. Community First! Village is a 51-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing for men and women coming out of chronic homelessness. About 80% of our neighbors are formerly homeless. About 20%, like my husband and I, have never been homeless. We love living at CF!V. We have TERRIFIC neighbors and thriving community. Our lives are full of laughter and friendship.

 

Why does Community First! Village belong on an education blog? Here’s why.

My formerly homeless neighbors were once children in a classroom. Some were good students; some weren’t. Some have learning disabilities; some don’t. Some have mental illness; some don’t. Many of them lived with unstable parents. Some were in and out of foster care. Many went to school hungry. Many of them had non-existent home lives. But they were all kids in someone’s class.

When you look at your students, what do you see? What you probably don’t see is a future homeless person. You probably imagine your students going to college, or enlisting in the military, or going to trade school.

Think about your students for a minute. Who never has school supplies? Whose clothes are dirty? Whose parents can’t you reach? Who isn’t engaged in school? Who never checked in online last year? Who just wants to sleep in class? Those students could be future homeless adults.

Which kids make you crazy? Which classes wear you out?

The students I remember the most are the ones that tried me the most. The classes I remember the most are the ones that were the most challenging. I think I remember those classes and students the most because I spent time trying to connect with them, trying to create community. I made a special effort to call the students by name. I planned activities that accomplished the academic goals for the class, but in a way that met that class’s needs. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes my attempts made an apparent difference and sometimes they didn’t.

When you reach out, your most trying students may not be able to reciprocate very well. They may not have the capacity to connect right now. But just as we remember the students who gave us the most trouble, our students who don’t connect will remember the teachers who tried. Your attempts at connection will make a difference in their lives, even though you might never know it.

Need some strategies to deal with tough classes and tough students?

Download Taming-an-Unruly-Student and Taming-an-Unruly-Class for tips to connect to your most challenging students and classes.