by Kayla Dunbar, AmeriCorps member serving on the DePuy Synthes Companies of Johnson & Johnson with Orchard Gardens Pilot K-8 School
Attendance support strategies vary amongst City Year AmeriCorps teams. Some AmeriCorps members have a weekly lunch with their attendance students. Others will pull their students aside for a brief conversation before class starts or after class is over. But there is one thing that all attendance coaching sessions should have in common: they should always be about the students and how we can help them get to school on time and ready to learn.
In each attendance coaching session, I ask the student why they missed school and allow them to explain the situation first. Then I let them know that their teachers and I want them to be in school and on time every day. We work together to try to come up with something that will motivate them to come to school or work around logistics and obstacles that could cause them to have poor attendance. We also work with the family of the student to ensure that we, as AmeriCorps members, are doing what we can to support the family in helping the students get to school. We make daily phone calls home as soon as we see that the student is not in school. Here's an example of how important and effective attendance coaching can be:
This year I have had the pleasure to work with one particular student on attendance. At the beginning of the year and for four months following, this student was often late to school by 40-50 minutes or didn't come at all. I called the student's parent every day but still nothing seemed to be working. When we came back from winter break, my partner teacher and I sat down with the student and talked about how to get to school on time because we wanted to see her at school getting the most out of class. We also discussed what would help her get to school on time. Ultimately, we made a plan--every day that she arrived to school on-time using her bus, she will get to work with kindergarten students on their morning reading. This has proven to be a great incentive for this particular student. She has been getting to school on time by using the bus everyday. Giving students a reason to come to school helps with their motivation to be on time.
Attendance coaching gives us a chance to get to know more about our students. We begin to know more about who they are as a whole person. These sessions are essential in us helping them develop early habits of getting to places on time. Strong school attendance sets them up for college and career success.