Monday, February 11, 2013
Overalls and Wonder Bread
Even though I knew he had a hearty breakfast at the group home before school, Jeff would walk around all morning with his hand held tightly against that pocket.
"Save for later, when I hungry, " he would say, squishing the pocket even more firmly with his pudgy hand and turning halfway around, like he was protecting it from being confiscated. It seemed enough for him to just have it. It was somewhat like a gastronomic security blanket, and it came into play every day around eleven o'clock in the morning. We would be working on telling time or counting money, and Jeff would start trying to unsnap his front pocket.
"Wait. I eat, I work good," Jeff would assure me. I would wait. Jeff would eat. Then he would proceed to "work good". Every time. Every day. It was only an hour before lunch, but Jeff was hungry. He could not focus on his lessons at all when he had a rumbling tummy. It was pointless. The easiest thing to do was just give him a minute and let him have his slice of bread.
This happened at a time in special education when rewards like M&Ms were considered a good reinforcement. Jeff did not want candy. It had to be his magical "Wunnerful Bwead". The bread wasn't a reward for Jeff, it was essential; he was hungry. Trying to interest him in being a student of time or money was pointless when he was hungry.
Think about it for just a minute. Time and money are two pretty darn important commodities in our lives. If we could have more time and more money, most of us would be thrilled. Jeff had no interest in hearing about either one when he needed something to eat.
Students have come into my class over the past thirty years and not one of them as been the same as another. Each student has been unique and special. However, there is one common thread: if they were hungry, they were unteachable.
As a mother, the thought of a truly hungry child is not acceptable to me, and it's probably not acceptable to you either. I never sent one of my own children to school with an empty stomach, making noises with its own gurgling juices. Who would do that? You would be surprised how regularly it happens. These days, many struggling single moms or dumped-on grandmothers are just lucky to be able to scrape their child out of bed and get them to school in the nick of time.