When I saw all of the blossoms on the trees in the spring, I thought “Oh No!”
I had never imagined in what context that statement would have made any sense to me and yet after my visit to Summer’s Corners, one our schools, just outside of Aylmer, I came away with a new appreciation of the duality of the meaning of a good crop. By the end of my visit, I knew exactly what that teacher was referring to.
Summer’s Corners is a large elementary school, where many of the local Low German Mennonite children attend. For many of the farming families, it is customary for the children to take part in the planting and harvesting of their crops. A chore which takes them out of school for most of May, June, September and depending on the abundance of the crop, into the month of October. As one can imagine, such an extensive absence can have a significant impact on the academic and social achievement for these children.
The meeting at Summer’s Corners was initiated by their concerned ESL department and administration, who were looking for alternative ways to support these children when their family responsibilities kept them from attending on a regular basis. In my role as Learning Supervisor, with ESL responsibilities, I was invited to attend this initial brainstorming session, along with Jeff Robinson, our ESL/ELD Learning Coordinator.
Recently the same community had implemented the ASPIRE program for Secondary students, who find themselves in a similar situation of having to work on the family farm and yet still want to earn enough credits to graduate with a diploma. This program opens the doors of East Elgin Secondary School, the local library and Summer’s Corners during the evening hours and teachers are on site to assist students with their school work. Some of the dedicated staff members even travel to coffee shops and the homes of the students to assist them with their learning.
In light of the success of the ASPIRE program, the elementary school is now looking to replicate a similar program for their intermediate students. I was so impressed with their strong level of dedication to do whatever it takes to provide these students and their families with as much support as they could, knowing all too well the responsibilities that these children have when it comes to working on the family farms.
We ended the meeting with a definite plan in place, which included collecting some initial data, looking for a way to fund it, ways to welcome the families into an information session and possible locations.
One of the perks of my new role is that I’m enjoying multiple opportunities to tour and visit schools and see the impressive work that our teachers do as they meet the needs of our students.
Do you have a student population that struggles with consistent attendance? What are some of the strategies that your school board is using to reach these students?
Come write with me…..