The more than 1.5 million public school students who are homeless for one reason or another – the highest number in a dozen years – pose a challenge that critics of public education do not fully understand (“Number of Homeless Students Rises to New High, Report Says,” The New York Times, Feb. 3).
Whether the cause is the lack of affordable housing, drug addiction or local economic conditions, the effect is the same: Teachers must practice triage on a daily basis before they can begin teaching their subject. Yet criticism of the performance of their students continues unabated.
When I was teaching English in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I had a student in my first period composition class who regularly asked me if he could go to the library. When I asked him why, he told me that he slept almost every night in his car. The library was the only quiet, safe place where he could try to catch up on his sleep.
I challenge anyone to expect that particular student and others like him to learn what even the best teachers can teach.
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