Military teens face a number of problems that can be aided by the education of other people around them. Parents, friends, teachers, and coaches can all be taught the best ways to work with military kids. However, one of the largest stressors for military brats is school, as it consumes the majority of their time. After seeing pieces on what others can do to best support them, I want to address what the schools themselves can do to help their military students.
#1: For the new students
One of the most stressful parts of starting at a new school, especially for myself personally, is finding the right classes at the right time. Obviously, it’s not a great idea for schools to have detailed maps of their campus posted to the public, but I could see a large benefit in sending a map of the school to any new incoming students to the school. Being someone who showed up fifteen minutes late to their first-period English class freshman year and could not find the pool for dive practice, I would have really appreciated a map. Though this does not seem specific to military teens and would likely improve the experience of all students, military teens do not often get the chance to tour their new school like those who moved up in the same area.
Not only is providing a map important, but also giving out the daily schedule, explaining any daily routines, and providing any school-specific information. This includes the morning announcements, class rotation times, school chants, school colors and mascots, and programs that a new student might see and be curious about. A new student should not have to find out details about school spirit from a Wikipedia page. Also, any specific abbreviations that are not common should be explained. It took me a long time to figure out that the LMC was just what my school’s library was called. Overall, providing new students with a handbook on these topics coupled with a map would not only relieve some of their stress but make them feel more welcomed into the school community.
#2: For finding a community of support
One of the easiest ways for schools to recognize their military teens is by giving them opportunities to connect with other military brats and share their experiences. This can be done through roundtables, clubs, support groups, etc. This gives military kids the recognition that they deserve for what they have been put through. It provides an easy system of encouragement for these teens who often get ignored or feel like they do not have an outlet to discuss their difficult moves. Schools can easily provide these opportunities and put them in the hands of the students as a leadership opportunity. I would love to see a “buddy” system implemented in more schools, where military teens or new transfers can connect on a personal level with someone who already attends the school, going in already knowing someone.
#3: For attacking the fundamentals
And here is my most difficult but most important point. Military kids dread the mid-high school move, as it often means dealing with transcripts and credit conversion. Schools don’t always have the same requirements, teach the same courses, or accept the same credits. I have friends who have had to take extra health classes, extra P.E. classes, or even repeat math classes just to graduate when they have already fulfilled the requirements in a different location. It is increasingly frustrating that schools are not universally the same, but that is virtually impossible. Not every place will teach the same, but it is important for school districts to consider the impact that their standards have on military students. How is an academically gifted high school student who is transferring supposed to get into their correct level math class when the school splits the classes in elementary school? Many military teens are also ineligible for higher-level awards at their schools because they have not been there for four years, a detriment to them when they have worked just as hard. Overall, schools on the individual level cannot fix this issue but can be open to working with military teens to get them the recognition that they deserve. But on behalf of myself and all military students, I ask that school boards attempt to consider their impacts on military brats when designing their requirements.
In all reality, the best thing that schools can do for military students is to be open-minded and understanding. Listening to them, knowing their stresses, and recognizing what may be difficult for them makes more of a difference than any systematic changes. As military brats, we just ask that educational leaders do the small things that allow us to have a voice and a chance to prosper at school.