Imagine you’re a teacher in a school that’s riddled with problems.
Many of your students act out, against you and against each other. Some kids don’t show up at all. Those who do try to apply themselves are struggling to focus and are falling behind.
All of these problems have solutions, but you’re only one person. You can’t afford to give each child the personalized care and attention they need to fix their individual issue.
So what do you do?
One surprising tool could solve a lot of students’ problems: a washing machine.
A lack of clean clothes is one of the most common problems among families with kids who are struggling in school.
All photos courtesy of Whirlpool.
“There are students that are being bullied because of the clothing that they're wearing,” says Emily Edwards, a social worker at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.
“You want them to think about, ‘Am I accomplishing good work in my math class?’” says Christina Deering, who teaches third grade. “You don't want them to be thinking, ‘I hope I'm not too close to you because I might smell.’”
Not having clean clothes distracts kids in class — and it sometimes keeps them out of school entirely. Absences add up and, ultimately, contribute to bigger academic problems that become harder to fix.
At this Nashville elementary school, the administration found a solution to the laundry problem.
“The Care Counts™ program installs washers and dryers in schools to improve attendance by giving kids access to clean clothes,” says Edwards. The school now has a washer and dryer on school property, and parents can come use them free of charge.
Watch and see how kids' lives are already improving thanks to their new laundry facilities:
For many of the students, it’s changed everything.
“The students here, they have a confidence about themselves more than other students who maybe don’t have clean clothes,” says Deering. A study of all schools who have the Care Counts™ laundry program showed that 90% of students who make use of it improved their attendance.
Though it may seem like students’ happiness, focus, behavior, and attendance are all separate issues, they’re all problems that can be helped by adding clean clothes.
It also helps administrators provide resources beyond laundry to families in need.
Typically educators notice a problem and recommend the Care Counts™ laundry program to parents. But sometimes, it's the program that alerts the school to larger issues.
“There have been families that I didn't know were experiencing issues at home and that I'd seen were using the washer and dryer,” says Edwards. “And so that kind of opens up a conversation of, ‘It's great that you're using this resource. What else can we do to help you?’”
The school's new laundry facilities have also helped open up a dialogue around issues facing many of the students' families.
“In our classroom, we've talked about how 7 out of 10 of us are at or below the poverty line,” says Harris. “That means that there are 7 out of 10 of us that have really difficult things often that go on at home, things that are out of our control.”
Talking about that helps the kids feel more comfortable asking for help when they need it. “When they walk in the building and know that they're 7 of 10, that there's not a stigma attached to that,” Harris says. “It's love for one another and it's a support of one another and there’s less shame involved.”
With the washing machine in place, kids will hopefully build better relationships, do better in school, and be able to establish a foundation for a successful future. They're free to stop worrying about their clothes and focus on what counts: being a kid.