Madeline Stevens knows what it’s like to be a military brat.
“The first week of school, it’s really hard,” said Stevens, a 17-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla., who has moved eight times with her naval aviator father and attended 10 different schools. “You sit by yourself at lunch, you try and make friends in classes. When you’re younger it’s easier because, you know, you just share crayons, and you’re new best friends.”
But in high school, Stevens said she’s had to integrate herself into sports and clubs to make friends, many of whom already have known each other most of their lives. The shuffle also has been a strain academically.
Moving can be tough for any child, but it can be even harder for children of military families, who, like Stevens, might relocate more frequently. They must leave friends behind and get acclimated to new schools that might have a different curriculum than the one they left behind. And the emotional impact of having a deployed parent also can include worry and anxiety, said Mary Ann Rafoth, dean of Robert Morris University’s School of Education and Social Sciences.
“Most of us go through each day not realizing that we’re a nation at war. But those kids do,” she said. “They often feel like they’re carrying that burden alone.”
However, educators often don’t have the tools to help military children cope.
A new initiative being launched Oct. 3 by first lady Michelle Obama and the vice president’s wife, Jill Biden, is designed to better prepare educators instructing military-connected children. “Operation: Educate the Educator” already has a commitment from more than 100 colleges offering teaching degrees.
The Obama administration has partnered with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and the Military Child Education Coalition to help military children as they face social, emotional, and learning challenges in the classroom while having an active-duty parent.
The colleges that have signed on have agreed to incorporate information about military children in the training curricula for student teachers, push faculty and student teachers to do research on military children, and require student teachers to work with military children as part of their final clinical experience or internship.