A Case Study: Exploring How Elementary School Teachers Build Relationships and Interact with Homeless School-Age Students in the Classroom

In 2008-2009, nearly one million children experiencing homelessness were enrolled in school. In 2012, over 1.5 million children were identified as homeless. In a 2013 U. S. Census report, 2.5 million children were identified as homeless in America. The number of homeless children in America continues to increase every year. Homeless students are among the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in schools. They experience daily trauma and encounter more risks than their non-homeless peers. Unfortunately, there is a dearth in educational research regarding how teachers work with homeless students and what they do to meet the children’s educational needs. There is even less research on homeless school-age children. Through the lens of two theoretical frameworks of care theory and attachment theory, this inquiry explored what relationship building practices teachers engage in and how elementary teachers build relationships and interact with their homeless students to meet the children’s educational needs. By examining how homeless students’ educational needs are currently being met, this study contributes to a better understanding of the challenges homeless students face, the types of support they need to be successful, and the support needed to provide elementary school teachers with the tools and knowledge to help them meet the unique needs of homeless students.