At some point every student faces a barrier.
Some barriers are more difficult to climb than others.
For many of our students, the barrier may seem impossible to overcome. And worse yet, we as teachers may be completely unaware of the barrier(s).
Children who haven’t eaten and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They may be sitting in your classroom unbeknownst to you.
Children who need to care for their siblings or help provide for their family, taking on adult responsibilities long before they should. They might be in your classroom too.
Children who are being abused, either mentally or physically or both. They could be there as well.
Children suffering from anxiety, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts. Check, check, and check. They may be there too. More and more of them, and at younger ages too.
How do we as teachers help students to overcome these barriers?
The first step is to know and understand. We have to recognize when a child is struggling or in trouble. We have to make the barriers more visible.
Get to know every student. Recognize when they may be dealing with one of these barriers. In most cases, students are generally doing the best that they can each day. When you recognize a child unusually lashing out, find out what’s at the heart of the matter.
Find out everything you can about each student. Empathize. Don’t just walk in their shoes, but live in them. Take those small moments each day to be a part of their lives.
While you won’t be able to eliminate the barriers in most cases, you will be able to minimize them through support and guidance.
Find the barrier and help each child overcome it.