The Diversity Amongst Back-To-School Students

August 22nd, 2023
It’s time for school…again.
For most parents out there this is a return to schedule, structure, and knowing the kids are in what they hope is a safe place for hours of the day. For some kids its a return to friends, structure, and learning which most enjoy. Today’s blog is about every instance in between. This means the kids who dread school for fear of bullying, rejection, power struggles with teachers, being labeled, compared, and feeling school only makes it worse.
Also, this is for the kids who love school because it’s consistent, provides safe expectations of what to do and what needs to be done, it’s an escape from what could be an unsafe home. Having worked with kids and teens for almost 10 years now – all of these groupings of kids exist and there are some not mentioned. What I hope this blog can be is a quick reminder of the diversity of experiences the kids and teens heading back to school are going through as well as a reminder to be kind. 

Types of Students

1. Kids and teens who are excited and ready for school – these friends come together in this grouping for many reasons. These friends are ready to learn and really enjoy the process of learning. These friends are the kids ready to be out of their homes to hang out with friends more. These are also the kids ready to be away from their home because home is unsafe, unstable, and unpredictable. When you come across these kids don’t doubt their sincerity and don’t downplay their excitement. Welcome their energy to the classroom. 

2. Kids and teens who are dreading school – again, these friends are here for many different reasons. One can be that school doesn’t feel like it fits their needs – these can be kids with adhd, autism, depression, developmental disorders; kids who don’t feel they fit the school expectation mold and school doesn’t seem to have the ability to meet their individual needs. This can cycle the kid or teen through feelings of incompetence, rejection, embarrassment, shame – emotions and thoughts that do not help anyone thrive. If you come across these kids – welcome them, help them feel capable and needed. 
This group of kids and teens are also those who have dealt with bullying, assault, mistreatment in the school arena and returning to it can feel traumatizing. Their reality needs to be seen and handled with kindness as well. These are kids who may end up in the counselor’s office; missing a lot of school; “acting out” in classes and the hallways; and much more. Keep an eye out for these kids too, they just want to feel seen and heard. To feel cared for. 
3. Kids and teens who mask their inner world – these are the friends who “seem” fine and “seem” able to be at school, do their homework, get the extracurriculars done and don’t “make a fuss.” I use quotation marks to denote that things are not always okay and to expect kids and teens to always be okay is unrealistic and unfair. 
Kids and teens need to be able to be authentic, to be silly, goofy, express their innerworld, and to speak up when things are not okay. Kids and teens who mask are really masters at self-control because they got the message at some point to not make a stir, or a fuss, or to draw attention. 
These kids and teens sometimes have outbursts that surprise teachers, friends, and family – this is because they are trying so hard to be what they were told is “good” but their emotions, feelings, and thoughts must come out. Let kids and teens be authentic. Open their expression of self into the classroom and be grateful when they share. 

Final Thoughts

Now, I imagine there are more groupings of kids we could come up with. However, this gets almost all of them. If you have time, scroll back through this post and consider those groups as people in college; people in the workplace; your colleagues; your neighbors; people in your congregation or community. If we can see that everyone is dealing with something and we choose to be kind rather than assessing and judging; life could be more bearable. 
For you kids and teens returning to school – good luck and be kind. For the rest of us – be kind. 
Written by Katie Walter