Father to the fatherless, hope to the hopeless
Reflect on the student population in your school; look into the faces of the students sitting in your very own classroom. Glance down your roster and there will be students that have experienced hurt, abandonment, and hopelessness no one would wish on their worst enemy. An epidemic of fatherlessness and hopelessness is wreaking havoc on […]
Reflect on the student population in your school; look into the faces of the students sitting in your very own classroom. Glance down your roster and there will be students that have experienced hurt, abandonment, and hopelessness no one would wish on their worst enemy. An epidemic of fatherlessness and hopelessness is wreaking havoc on our nation. Let’s look at two major issues affecting America’s students and see how educators can make a difference:
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 2017 data, 19.7 million, 1 in 4 children do not have a father at home. Children living without a biological father, stepfather, and adoptive father are:
– 4x more likely to live in poverty
– 7x more likely to become pregnant as a teen
– 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes (5x the national average)
– More likely to face abuse and neglect
– More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol
– More likely to have behavioral problems
– More likely to go to prison
– 2x more likely to suffer from obesity
– More likely to commit a crime
– 2x more likely to drop out of high school
– Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for students 10-24 years of age (U.S. Census Bureau 2017).
– Between 2009 to 2017, the rate of depression increased by more than 60% for students aged 14-17.
– Between 2009 to 2017, the rate of depression increased by 47% for students aged 12-13.
– Between 2009 to 2017, the rate of depression increased by 46% for students aged 18-21.
– Between 2008 to 2017, rates of suicidal thoughts and suicidal plans and attempts increased
significantly, sometimes even doubling.
Intellectuals have debated the root causes of the epidemic of fatherlessness and hopelessness in our nation for years without coming to a consensus. I personally have a few theories concerning the causes and maybe you do too. One thing I hope we can all agree on is that educators have the potential to be on the frontline of this battlefield. Educators can be the infantry that causes a mortal blow to the voids in our student’s lives. “All of those facts seem too overwhelming. What could I possibly do to make a difference?” Here’s where you can start – determine that every student in your class was put there for a purpose. You have something specific on the inside of you to meet the needs of everyone who crosses your classroom threshold. What exactly that is? That’s for you to discover. One of your students could need something as simple as a smile and “hello” every time they see you to fill the void of abandonment created at home. Maybe another one of your students needs you to be the authority figure they desperately crave, even though they do not know it yet. Your student whose mother is going through cancer treatments and worries how much longer she will be around might need you to open your heart and cry alongside of them. The young man who is tired of being picked on and cannot see the rationale for living another day needs you to help them develop a hope and purpose for their lives.
Allow me to bring this to a close with a true story I learned of at a recent Learning Sciences Conference I attended. There was a school who was encountering an enormous amount of behavioral issues. This school began a teacher-student mentoring program and was amazed at how quickly the negative behaviors were decreasing. As a staff exercise, the principal decided to write out on single pieces of paper each student’s name who attended the school, attached the papers together, and then wrapped the list of names around the school. Teachers were instructed to write their name on every student’s paper they believe they had a significant relationship with. Once the exercise was completed, the staff was amazed to see the student’s papers without any teacher’s names on them were the same students who remained the biggest behavioral problems.
What if your school conducted this same exercise? Do you think the results would be similar? I am confident that if every educator takes the time to see our students as more than a warm body or a test score, many of the facts bulleted above will positively change in dramatic proportions. All we must do is take each day at a time, realize each student’s value, and make love your greatest quest.
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