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October 1, 2020
Vol. 78
No. 2

Seen on Screen / Homeless But Not Hopeless

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    Social-emotional learningSchool Culture
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      Students' health, living conditions, and feelings of safety are all connected to their education. When any or all of these are threatened, a child's learning suffers. To bring this issue to the forefront and give students living with trauma a voice, documentarian and instructional coach Steven Goodman taught a filmmaking class in 2019 to New York City middle and high school students living in temporary housing.
      Through the class, a series of Saturday workshops sponsored by the New York City Department of Education, the students documented their experiences living in poverty or being homeless. The curriculum, designed to connect students' lives to their learning, combined journalism and filmmaking skills with advocacy. Students filmed interviews with family members, friends, school district staff, and community members, in hopes of bringing the experiences of housing-insecure families to the attention of school leaders and policy makers.
      The students' finished documentary, Straight Outta Housing, has been screened at several school social worker professional development workshops and at the 2020 NYC Elementary School Principal Leadership conference.
      Goodman, who has sponsored documentary workshops for 35 years as the director of the Educational Video Center, has helped many students produce empowering documentaries about their trauma. His book It's Not About Grit: Trauma, Inequity, and the Power of Transformative Teaching (Teachers College Press, 2018), highlights many of these stories, and a special page on the publisher's website features clips from some of the documentaries.
      "The trauma of a homeless student is often misunderstood by school officials," says Goodman. "By creating these films, students grow a more resilient self-identity and open new possible futures for themselves as filmmakers, researchers, and change agents in their schools and community."
      —Tara Laskowski

      Tara Laskowski is ASCD's director of digital and editorial content.

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