Okinawa educators learn how to ease transitions for military kids
May 8, 2006
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — More than 40 educators and counselors gathered for two days at the Butler Officer’s Club to learn how they better can help school-age, military-connected students make moving to new areas a little smoother.
The nonprofit Military Child Education Coalition, which focuses on military children, provided the training.
“We want to provide an awareness and overview of the unique challenges faced by military children,” said Mary Keller, MCEC executive director, who traveled from Texas to facilitate the training. “Military children can attend between six to nine different schools, on average, from kindergarten to high school.”
Attendees included Department of Defense Dependents Schools principals, counselors and teachers, counselors from base family service organizations and parents.
Keller said the training covers three areas: Relationships, academics and “finding the way.”
“Kids have to know how they’re going to fit in and be accepted,” she said. They have to make an academic program that’s as coherent as possible because military children often face different curriculum and criteria when transferring to new schools.
To help students make a smooth transition, Keller said, counselors must teach them how “to celebrate where they are so they make the most out of it.”
On the training’s last day, eight high school students shared their experiences.
Kubasaki High School freshman Kaitlyn Koeneke, who has attended about six different schools, said making new friends always is the hardest thing to do. Coming to Okinawa was easier, she said, because most classmates are military children.
“It was a lot easier moving to (an on-base) military school because they all have the same experiences as everyone else,” she said. “Moving into a civilian school — it’s harder. … They could have different academic programs and it’s hard to get used to.”
She said she came to the training because she wanted to share her experiences about moving and help those attending understand what students think would be good for the schools.
Jeanne Tsue-Grimes, a Zukeran Elementary School counselor, called the training very useful.
“We’ve all felt there needs to be community coordination so the children and their families can take advantage of all the programs in the community,” she said.
Zukeran, she said, holds a family-orientation night at the beginning of the school year, where parents and children can learn about programs and resources the school offers.
Often when MCEC holds this training, Keller said, by sitting down together, the various organizations realize what’s available in the community. To date, the organization has given more than 4,300 people the TCI training.
Sitting down with family service employees was a benefit, Tsue-Grimes said: “They’re very interested in working with the schools in helping families.”
Keller said the overall goal is to figure out “how we as educators and adults in the community can support these kids.”