On Tuesday one of my students asked if I had any food in my classroom. I didn’t. She was really hungry… So today I brought a bag of tangerines.
I went through that entire bag today.
The class who took the most oranges is right before lunch at 12:43. So even if they eat breakfast they still have to go from 7:30 to 12:43. That’s a little long even for an adult. And these are inner city students. For some of them, the only thing they may eat all day is what the school provides. (This could be true at any school, but the percentages are higher in inner city schools.)
I empathize, and I know the data show it’s really hard to learn if you are hungry.
But I can’t sustain that, I don’t think. A bag of fruit every other day? Apples and these little tangerines aren’t so much, but they add up for a bottom-of-the-pay scale teacher. I didn’t even have enough for all of the kids who wanted one in my eighth-period class.
I want to keep offering this to students who need it. Maybe today more people took one just because it was the first day. Maybe I can make an arrangement with a local grocery, or the FFA teacher can help me figure something out. Maybe the teachers who have been teaching the inner city students longer will have some ideas, since most of them offer food to students too.
I was going to go buy chips too, but I think I’ll skip that and just do fruit.
People like to blame teachers for low test scores, but this is one of the things teachers are up against in helping students learn. Institutional, generational poverty is a thing. It’s represented at higher levels in inner city schools. If you’re coming to school hungry, when is biology or algebra going to be a priority? How can you pause to even wonder about these curiosities when your stomach hurts and is rumbling?
In the big picture, I hope we’ll eventually see that we all win when we build everyone up. We should make sure that everyone has the basics: roof over heads, food in bellies, medical care, clean water. That’ll be awhile, so in the mean time I’ll try to do my part to help those students help themselves.
I’ll get a bag of apples and oranges over the weekend for when I meet those classes on Monday. I’ll do what I can do and take it from there.