What do teachers think about military kids in their classrooms? The Operation Dandelion Kids staff asked seasoned educator Mrs. Lori Barton, Principal at Fort Concho Elementary School in the military-impacted school district of San Angelo, Texas, for her thoughts on military-connected children in education. Mrs. Barton gave us her honest take on our kids and confirmed what parents intuitively know.
ODK: How long have you worked in education and in what roles?
Mrs. Barton: Twenty-six years; Early Childhood Director, Program Director, Teacher, Principal
ODK: Have you always worked in a school that educated military-connected students?
Mrs. Barton: No. I went to school at Glenmore Elementary [in San Angelo] growing up and my dad was in the military but we didn’t move. I did go to school with a lot of military children that did move and losing those friendships was hard. I’ve been at Fort Concho for eight years and of those, about four years have had a significant number of military students attend at the same time.
ODK: Can you identify some common characteristics shared by military kids and their civilian peers?
Mrs. Barton: They’re kids! They want to feel a sense of belonging and fitting in. They all have anxiety when doing something or meeting people for the first time.
ODK: Can you identify specific strengths military kids have that their civilian peers don’t – perhaps traits you believe are a result of their military lifestyle?
Mrs. Barton: Most seem to be more adaptable to change. They seem to be “natural” leaders and the majority does well in school and values education. They bring a broader view of the world with them.
ODK: Can you identify unique academic and social challenges military kids face because of their military lifestyle?
Mrs. Barton: The biggest challenge I noticed was with military children that were a little more reserved/shy/introverted. These children seemed a little more emotional and had a more difficult time finding their spot and feeling accepted.
ODK: Is there anything from your experience that you believe supports the idea that military kids bring unique needs to the classroom?
Mrs. Barton: I think that it is very important to educate the school staff on the issues some kids face by moving all the time. We are very good at educating ourselves about the specific needs of our Special Ed students, students from abusive homes or who live in poverty, but we don’t necessarily think about military students that may have issues with mobility. This is probably because MOST of the students we encounter seem so well-balanced and are such leaders!
ODK: Given your experience with other sub-groups of students – students living in poverty, bilingual students, Special Ed students – do you recognize military kids as a sub-group of students with unique needs? Why or why not?
Mrs. Barton: Not really, because most of them seem to thrive and we overlook them.
ODK: What one piece of advice would you give the parents of a military kid about managing their child’s education during a military-specifc transition such as a move or deployment?
Mrs. Barton: Try to keep routines and expectations the same. Don’t let moving become an excuse for not doing well. Focus on the benefits and opportunities that they have as opposed to the rest of us who never leave the front porch in life!
ODK: What would you focus on in order to educate other educators about the unique needs of military-connected children?
Mrs. Barton: Emotional and social needs. Making a greater effort to ensure students are made to feel welcomed and that they have someone to connect with as soon as they join our family!