In Almost Home, the reader gets a sense of protagonist Sugar Mae Cole’s progressive downward spiral into devastating poverty, homelessness, and life as a foster child. Sugar Mae is a good kid working to maintain a positive outlook on life as the walls of stability shatter all around her. In the novel, author Joan Bauer also reveals the life-changing influence that a teacher can have with an at-risk child, such as Sugar Mae. Yet, in real life, how can an educator succeed in instructing on an academic level when the vital needs of a kid like Sugar Mae cannot be met in the classroom alone? How does one teach a kid in such deep despair? The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has published an informative document that seeks to answer these daunting questions.
In How Teachers Can Help Students that are Homeless, State Superintendent Tony Evers states, “Teachers must remember that they cannot possibly meet all the needs of a child who is homeless. However, if they can remove just one frustration, it can make a tremendous difference for that child.” He goes on to list an number of ways to lessen the stress of assimilating into the traditional classroom setting, all the while maximizing the instructional time the student is spending in school. Evers touches on ways to minimize frustrations and feelings of shame and hopelessness. He does so by suggesting ways to stabilize the emotional, social, and physical needs of the troubled child, even though their presence in the classroom community may be sporatic.
Evers also says that, “… school may be the only place of stability in a child’s life,” which is a crucial plot point that wonderfully weaves throughout Bauer’s Almost Home. Read this book and walk beside a child in need…a child who very well may be a member of your classroom community today.