Saturday, November 14, 2009

This is the real America

I KNOW! It's been forever, but I have an excuse. And a reason for this post. My MIL was visiting this week, and so we were busy, busy, busy! My MIL is a retired second grade teacher, so she totally gets what I am talking about when I get on my soapbox. (Which I am about to do again.) It's so nice to be understood! One conversation, however, was really enlightening. I teach in a school that gets around 66% free lunch. For the uninitiated of you, that means that I teach in an area of high poverty. There are many middle-class families at our school, but there is also a very high rate of the "working poor". What is working poor? It's this.

  • Many kids in my school do without. Even though the parents work. And I do not mean do without Wii's, or trips to Disney. I mean many of my kids do without food and clothes.
  • There are kids in my school who go to bed hungry at night. Fortunately, they get breakfast and lunch at school. Still, they do not get three meals a day. 
  • There are kids that come to school in clothes that are either too small, dirty or both. 
  • There are children that come to school who have not bathed in a week. 
  • There are kids who do not get the medication they need or are dosed with only half because the families are trying to make the prescription last as long as possible until they can afford to get a new one. (even paying the $10 co-pay is a streach). 
My MIL was shocked and outraged (as everyone should be!) about this and really, really upset. "But this is America!" She said " I do not understand how people can let a child go hungry at night!". Mr. Lewis replied "Yes. This is America and this is what most of America looks like" Now my MIL was really lucky to teach in a fairly affluent area, so the things that I see did not necessarily show up in her school. But her district and her population are not the norm. My school represents a majority of America. And it is a distressing sight.

I have been reading a lot of Facebook posts lately and as we approach the holiday season, many people have been updating their status to say "I am thankful for...." I wonder how many people who write these things realize how fortunate they are and if they really mean it. Do you realize that you are lucky to have a roof over your head? Lucky to be able to get care when you need it? Even mundane things like pick up milk on the way home? If you can do all of that, you are fortunate indeed.

I would like to ask everyone reading to think about something: For the next two months, when you pass by a Toys for Tots location, a local food drive, a way to give to families and children in need, do it. Please. The $5 you spend on a latte or a fast food meal can be donated very easily. Then, when the holiday season in over, find a way to give again. And again. The holidays are only 6 weeks long, but the needs of these families last all year.
A little girl in my class is being thrown out of her mobile home in 2 days. I don't know if I will see her next week, because she does not know where she will be living. She is nine, and she does not know where she will be sleeping come Monday.

p.s. - For anyone, I recommend the book "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Erenreich. It's about the working poor in America who are trying to survive on minimum wage and it is a fascinating eye-opener.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Report Cards

Report cards came out on Friday. It's a rough time for kids, parents and teachers. I also want to know who decided to give out report cards the day before Halloween? That just seems mean. We have all the regular spaces in the report card for the letter grades, but then there is the section for marking things like "Uses time well", "Comes prepared for class" etc. If nothing is marked, an "S" for "Satisfactory" appears. If the teacher does mark that section, an "N" appears for "Not Satisfactory". Bad boy was looking at his report card and talking to himself. I heard him say "All right! Mostly S's! Oh, an "N" for following directions" He saw me looking at him. "I know I got an N for not following directions. You don't have to tell me twice!" I leaned very close to him and said "Yes, Bad Boy, I do have to tell you at least twice. Which is why you got the N"
He at least had the grace to look down and hide his face as he smiled.