Monday, November 19, 2018

Debi Khasnabis and Simona Goldin quoted in article about homelessness in Ann Arbor Public Schools

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Professor Debi Khasnabis and Dr. Simona Goldin were interviewed for an article about students and families in Ann Arbor who experience homelessness. The article, by Meredith Bruckner of Click on Detroit, explores the “invisible” issue of homelessness that affects 350 to 375 families with children in Ann Arbor Schools each year.

The article describes how students experiencing homelessness are more likely to lack education continuity and have poor health. They may also have transportation and attendance problems in addition to having lower test scores. Trust among parents, teachers, and schools is of great importance. Khasnabis said, “Often, teachers are really wishing that parents would be more open with them… And it’s coming from a good place of wanting to support students and their families. But, really the root issue there is this trust.” Khasnabis explained why it can be challenging to establish trust: “It might be something that we’ve done or it might be something that teachers before us have done, or it might be something through generations where distrust is built in between families and teachers, or families and a larger power structure. If you’ve faced homelessness, you’ve been let down. So a lot of the responsibility is on us as educators and as school-based personnel to build trust.”

As part of this responsibility, Khasnabis teaches Homelessness in Schools and Society: Engaged Practice in School Serving Organizations, alongside co-teacher Simona Goldin. They designed this class together with Lauren Velez and Layton Price of Avalon Housing. As part of their course, students volunteer at Avalon's after-school programs for six weeks.

During one of their open lectures titled "What I Wish My Teacher Knew: Homelessness in Schools and Society," Khasnabis and Goldin presented a real-life case in which a homeless student's grades began slipping. They challenged attendees to place themselves in his teacher’s shoes and to understand what the student’s life was like, as well. They also asked the group to consider issues of race, which are important to their course. "I’d say that my hope for our students is that they learn some careful humility that is important for any kind of professional work, and that they be willing and able to have conversations around race and inequality,” said Goldin.

In her interview, Goldin also revealed that more awareness is necessary to make the issue of homeless schoolchildren more visible and to reduce the instances of families without shelter. "It is our responsibility, as people who live here, to think about who has and who doesn’t. And there’s lots of kids inside of our schools that are homeless. I really do think in some ways it’s more hidden in towns like Ann Arbor and Madison and Boulder than it is in other places. If you think about it, that’s such an incredible opportunity to break down barriers and to shatter complacency, to put a face to the ways in which our neighbors are suffering. For many students, they’re hiding in plain view."
 

Debi Khasnabis is Clinical Associate Professor

Simona Goldin is Director of Instructional Design for Seminars and Special Programs; Editor, Working Papers

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