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When They’re Hungry

On Friday, I paired students up to work on a Say Something/Selective Highlighting assignment.

One of my girls insisted that she didn’t want to work.

I had a few problems with this young lady the first week and a half of school.  After writing her up and working with an administer to show her grace, she’s been a model student.  I’ve been extra sensitive to her as well because she had written a letter of apology that explained that she often comes to class angry, but that the anger isn’t my fault.

With that in mind, I chose not to get angry when she refused to work.  Instead, I kept encouraging her.

Finally, I quietly asked what was wrong, and she told me she was having a bad morning…that she was hungry because she had not eaten breakfast…that she rarely eats breakfast, in fact.

Sigh.

My heart just broke.

I didn’t have any food on hand, but I did have candy.  I went to my file cabinet, pulled out a bag of Starburst, and gave her a few pieces, asking if she would do her work in return.

She smiled happily and complied.

Every time I saw her lagging, I walked over and put another piece in front of her.

To be fair, the other students in my class got candy too…the first round, anyway.

I was reminded of a couple of things.

First of all, just because a student won’t do what I ask, it’s not because they are mad at me or being obstinate just for the sake of being difficult.  There’s usually an unrelated but deeper issue.

Second, kids function better when they are fed.

My first year teaching at this school, I had a very challenging first period class.  One day, I took cereal to school with me, poured several bowls of it, and distributed the bowls to each student.

The kids completed their work that day…without grumbling.

I continued to feed these students almost every day of the school year.

I didn’t do this last year…didn’t really see the need.

Friday’s incident reminded me that I need to be extra sensitive to the needs of my special charges…most of whom come from low-income households where breakfast isn’t a guaranteed meal and the breakfast provided by the school doesn’t fill their teenage bellies.

I am so grateful to the young lady for not responding in anger that morning and for trusting me enough to open up, share her needs honestly, and, in the end, yield her will to do what needed to be done so her education wouldn’t be hampered that day.

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One Response

  1. Bless you for being a caring teacher – one who sees the whole child and not just the subject matter.

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