DoD officials stress importance of educating teachers about Guard children

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"How do we get to superintendents of schools systems ... and educational leaders … so we are not just fixing a situation in one school, but we're actually fixing a system in terms of training teachers about the challenges that we have been through?” Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asked during the 2010 National Guard Volunteer Workshop held here this week.

“This is something we ought to be pretty aggressive with.”

Army Maj. Gen. William Enyart, the adjutant general of Illinois, said before his brigade's last deployment to Afghanistan, he contacted his state superintendent of schools, who also sits on the governor's council.

The state superintendent sent an email to every county superintendent, so "it was relatively simple for us to get that message pushed out," he said.

Mullen said he wants to know that these inputs are working. " What has happened to close on that?" he asked. "I need to know that this stuff is effective.

“There are opportunities to engage ... but then what happened?”

Since 2001, over two million children have been affected by a federal deployment including the 25,000 from the Guard and Reserve, according to the DoD Education Activity.

“That’s a lot of kids across this country in schools and communities that teachers might not even know are being affected by a deployment,” said Kathleen Facon, chief of educational partnerships for DoDEA.

She suggested that National Guard parents ensure that the people closest to their children at school are made aware of any changes at home. “Whether it’s deployment or awareness that a parent is simply serving in the Guard and what that means, then teachers will be able to better understand a child’s behavioral changes.”

Facon said a teacher’s goal is helping the student learn best. “If they know enough about the student, what they are experiencing in their family life, this will help them be a better teacher for that student.

“I’ve never met a teacher that didn’t want to learn, and there is information that we can provide these teachers about signs and symptoms, the deployment cycle and what are things that can be done in the classroom to help the child stay in touch with the deployed parent,” she said.

Facon repeated what Mullen said about not needing new programs, but ensuring the programs that we have work better for families.

“Educators need to be made aware of the support and resources out there for them to better understand these children,” she said. “I think the education community is hungry and eager to support, and help that child be successful academically and socially.”

Facon said educators are not going to think that these programs are something that they don’t need, and that they need to be shown how these programs can be helpful, because they may be applicable for other types of children, such as those dealing with divorce or other type of loss.

“We have a nation interested in helping the military and military families,” she said, “and the education community is no different when it comes to wanting to help.”