There's been a flu bug going around the school. The kind that keeps you in the bathroom, wishing you could just end it all rather than spend one more minute on the cold, hard, ceramic tile floor just inches away from the toilet.....
So when my little first grader came down with stomach cramps on Friday, and spent a long time in the bathroom TWICE, I was sure we'd be sending her home within the hour. But she didn't have diarrhea, no fever, just a debilitating tummy ache. Most kids' parents would want to be called if their child was in this kind of discomfort. I certainly can't teach a little one who can't concentrate because she feels sick. But this mom does not want to be called unless it is a real emergency. You know, the kind of illness that fits the guidelines for MUST GO HOME NOW: fever, throwing up, stitches required, etc.
So little first grader lay sprawled on the bean bag for several hours, in and out of sleep, all the while wondering why I wasn't making her mom come pick her up.
This happens a lot. Kids don't get enough sleep, they sleep during the day. Kids' meds are wrong, they get sleepy, they sleep during the day. They don't get breakfast at home, and they arrive at school too late for school breakfast, so they eat in the classroom (from reserves we collect just for this purpose). They come in clothes not appropriate to the weather/season. We lend them clothes from our stash. I've duck-tapped shoes, bought toothpaste and toothbrushes for kids with chronic bad breath, slipped kids extra food to take home to their siblings when none of them are getting enough. I buy them children's books to take home, as well as crayons, paper, tape, scissors.
If you are a teacher reading this blog, you probably have your stories to tell too. It's something we all end up doing because we care about the kids. It's just counter-productive to withhold supplies, books, clothing, even sleep and food. And so the cycle continues.
The folks who say that our school problems can be solved without addressing issues of poverty don't want us to use poverty as an excuse to stop trying. I get that. But poverty continues to do it's damage whether the experts admit it or not.
And we good, caring teachers will continue to try and mitigate the damage as we seek to teach our charges to the highest of standards.