Written by Lindsay Hall, AmeriCorps member serving on the Albemarle Foundation Team at Merrydale Elementary.
As Attendance Awareness month continues, it’s been interesting to observe how coming to school every day affects the students’ success in the classroom--that is, how simply being present is so important to their development at this age and to becoming lifelong learners.
Like many students, I hated getting up for school. Mornings weren’t (and still aren’t) for me. Yet, as much as I disliked waking up for school, I disliked missing out on everything that happened in school even more.
First of all, that’s where all my friends were. If I wanted to be a part of the action and find out the latest drama, I had to be there. The idea of missing out, or hearing about things secondhand, was too much to handle. Otherwise, I would probably never have made the effort to get there early enough to make the most of those connections. Gradually, school became a place where I felt comfortable, where I knew the routine and felt responsible for myself and my own time--something that’s a really big part of growing up in general.
At the time, I’d never given much thought to how my teachers felt when their students weren’t present. Now, as a corps member, I notice when my kids are absent, late, or even less talkative. It really changes the way the classroom feels. Any day they miss is a day of instruction lost, and it’s also a day when they can’t make their own contributions to the class. For me, it’s important that my students know that they have a stake in their own learning space, that they are fully present when they are in the building and that they feel they have a stake in their own education.
Studies show that student success is strongly connected with regular attendance, impacting test scores for all students from all backgrounds at all grade levels. It’s a little overwhelming when you realize how little time is available to accomplish so much. When I look across the classroom and interact with the students and observe how much they grow when they are interacting with each other, I can really see how important it is for them to be at school every day, ready to learn. Sometimes this seems like a lot to ask. But there is so much that they miss on their days out, so much that their teachers, classmates, and City Year members want to share with them.
It’s rewarding to work with a group of people who are devoted to letting students know that their school is their space. As the year goes on, I hope to inspire students to want to come to school, and to help build the connections that encourage them to come ready to do their best.
My name is Lindsay Hall, and I am proudly serving on the Albermarle Foundation Team at Merrydale Elementary.