WASHINGTON (AP) — Madeline Stevens knows what it’s like to be a military brat.
“The first week of school, it’s really hard,” said Stevens, a 17-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., who has moved eight times with her naval aviator father and attended 10 different schools. “You sit by yourself at lunch, you try and make friends in classes. When you’re younger it’s easier because, you know, you just share crayons, and you’re new best friends.”
But in high school Stevens said she’s had to integrate herself into sports and clubs to make friends, many of whom already have known each other most of their lives. The shuffle also has been a strain academically.
Moving can be tough for any child, but it can be even harder for children of military families, who, like Stevens, may relocate more frequently. They must leave friends behind and get acclimated to new schools that may have a different curriculum than the one they left behind. And the emotional impact of having a deployed parent can also include worry and anxiety, said Mary Ann Rafoth, dean of Robert Morris University’s School of Education and Social Sciences.
“Most of us go through each day not realizing that we’re a nation at war. But those kids do,” she said. “They often feel like they’re carrying that burden alone.”
However, educators often don’t have the tools to help military children cope.
A new initiative being launched Wednesday by first lady Michelle Obama and the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, is designed to better prepare educators instructing military-connected children. “Operation: Educate the Educator” already has a commitment from more than 100 colleges offering teaching degrees.
The Obama administration has partnered with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Military Child Education Coalition to help military children as they face social, emotional and learning challenges in the classroom while having an active-duty parent.
The colleges that have signed on have agreed to incorporate information about military children in the training curriculums for student teachers, push faculty and student teachers to do research on military children and require student teachers to work with military children as part of their final clinical experience or internship.
The guidelines also encourage the colleges to work with admissions offices to identify military children, offer workshops and seminars to faculty and student teachers, and partner with K-12 schools for joint development programs.
There are nearly 2 million students whose parents are either on active duty, members of the National Guard or Reserves or military veterans, according to the Military Child Education Coalition. Students often move six to nine times during their preschool through high school education. More than 80 percent of the 1.1 million-plus K-12 students attend public schools.
Biden said she was moved by a story of a little girl who burst into tears when “Ave Maria” played at her school’s Christmas program because the song had also been played at the funeral of father, who died in Iraq.
“It was so shocking to me that that teacher really was unaware that this girl had a daddy who was in the military,” she said. “We have to make sure that we can identify the military children and that we can do things to celebrate military families.”
Biden said it was inevitable that the education of military children would become part of Joining Forces, the initiative she launched with Mrs. Obama in 2011 to support military families. The campaign also has helped formerly deployed soldiers seek employment stateside and has aided spouses.
“We say, when you have a family member who is in the military service, the families serve too,” she said. “Think of the pressures on the families, and so they’re all in this together.”
Robert Morris University, located in Moon Township, Pa., near Pittsburgh, serves a large community of the military children with the nearby Air Force Reserve base. All education majors at Robert Morris attend weekly seminars to discuss the challenges of student teaching with their school faculty. Starting this semester, one of the sessions will be devoted to discussing the needs of children with parents in the military who are deployed, state-side or veterans.
Rafoth, who will lead the session, said the constant moving can cause “holes in instruction,” rather than cognitive issues for the student.
“This especially happens with math instruction because math curricula vary place to place, and it’s possible you can go around and never get fractions because those are taught in a discrete place in the curriculum,” she said. “Then, boy, are you up a creek when you meet algebra.”
Almost 10 percent of the 24,000 students at Kansas State University are military-connected since there are three military bases in the state.
The university’s College of Education will hold a special session on the needs of the military-connected families at its educational symposium, an annual career day for about 500 students. The school also will incorporate information about military children into a required teaching course, Core Teaching Skills, about effective teaching and learning.
Debbie Mercer, the college’s dean, said military children deal with anxiety and fear of the unknown. Those issues can manifest in the classroom with a student becoming withdrawn or acting out, she said.
“Being able to reach that child where they are, help figure out exactly what is going on and then come up with a plan for that child is important,” she said.
More Related Stories
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Is abortion about to doom Republicans again?
- Anti-voter-fraud Tea Party group sues the IRS
- The Bachmann-inspired romance novel
- Nate Silver: Why the scandals aren't hurting Obama
- How to oust Michele Bachmann from Congress
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Who is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?
- Colorado judge rules Abercrombie parent company violates Disabilities Act
- When America became a third-world country
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- It's Whitewater all over again
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Anyone regret slashing National Weather Service budget now?
- Oklahoma senator: Tornado aid "totally different" from Sandy aid
- Aloof, shifty Obama: Nixon times ten thousand!
- Obama: Moore "needs to get everything it needs right away"
- California Tea Party group files first IRS lawsuit
- Still no polling backlash for Obama
- Oklahoma senator wants to offset tornado aid with other cuts
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11