Faye Snodgress is executive director of Kappa Delta Pi.
*On July 11-12, I had the privilege of participating in the Network of National State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) annual conference. The State Teachers of the Year became an affiliate chapter of KDP in 1990 and have been valued partners since that time, generously sharing their expertise and leadership with the KDP community. The conference provided many excellent learning opportunities, which I would like to share with you through a blog series.*
I found the panel discussion at the NNSTOY conference with speakers Danielle Massey, a military spouse and NNSTOY from Virginia, and Eric Combs, a 20-year member of the U.S. Air Force and 2006 NNSTOY from Ohio, extremely insightful. The pair shared recommendations for working with military-connected families and their children.
As more troops come home from Afghanistan and Iraq, teachers need to be aware of students in their classrooms who are part of the 1.2 million military-connected families, which includes service personnel, as well as suppliers, transporters, and others who support and/or serve the military. It is estimated that there is at least one student in every U.S. classroom whose family has military ties of some type.
Students who have a parent stationed abroad may not always share their concerns or lifestyle. Once the family member returns home, an effective way to help both the service person and their student with the adjustment is to invite the service person into the classroom. It is important to clarify the age of the students and what would be appropriate material to discuss. Students love uniforms and soldiers frequently have interesting and compelling experiences to share. It also helps the returning veteran to feel more connected to their child’s classroom and their community.
Most individuals with military service would prefer not to be included in school activities that include the use of balloons as decorations or have large crowds.
Given some of the realities of having a family member serving overseas, teachers may have to give more in working with an emotionally depleted family. If there is a need to reach out to the parent, it is important to contact the parent first by email or a note to let them know that you will be calling. Seeing an incoming phone number that they don’t recognize can create anxiety and fear on the part of the parent.
As teachers, we can offer these students a safe zone or a place where they can go for support and to talk about what they are experiencing.