Sunday, December 12, 2010

Teaching Hungry Children: Healthy, Hunger-Free Families Act.

How do you teach children when they have no food and go hungry all night or all weekend?

I used to teach Saturday Kindergart­en to NES (None English Speaking) and ELL students, teaching 12-14 little darlings with big smiles and even bigger hearts was a treat.

I was very excited to get back to working with the little ones on Saturday when the school year started. The first day of Saturday school the kinders came in with their little backpacks and nervous apprehensi­on about a new teacher and class. We did our normal introductions and told parents we would see them after lunch.

We got right into singing my favorite Spanish-English song that is usually a great ice breaker and gets kids smiling. "Amigos, Amigos, uno, dos, tres! "Todos mis amigos estan aqui! Tu eres mis amigos, Maria, es mi amiga, Jesus, es mi amigo, Franky, es mi amigo, Amigos, Amigos, uno ..." "Con permiso?" "Con permiso?" This precious tiny girl was desperately trying to get my attention, she looked up at me with these big sad eyes, with tears rolling down her check, as she tried to ask me a question in English. I asked her in my broken Spanish what was wrong sweetie, thinking maybe she missed her mom and wanted to go home. She looked up at me with these sad eyes and said, "A qué hora desayunar", "A qué hora desayunar, Por favor" What time is breakfast. please? My heart sank, I was brought immediately to a sad realization, my mind was on teaching my Saturday English class, learning a new song and having fun, and her mind was on her real hunger and her need for someone to feed her breakfast. I was gutted, we stopped immediately and prepared breakfast for all the kids. Her world had light, joy and color brought back again with a simple breakfasts. She had gone from hurting darkness with no chance of learning to light and joy with renewed passion for learning. Our student's world will never be full of magic, love, sunshine, unicorns, and rainbows when they have had nothing to eat, sometimes for dinner and breakfast.

Working at a Tilte I school I see kids that only get fed at school because they have no food at home. Many students that are undocument­ed are now afraid to seek federally subsidized free school lunch because the political climate "hatred" against Hispanics. I eat lunch daily with my students and sometimes they bring a tiny bag of Cheerios or a few chips to eat at lunch. It is always heart-breaking to see children suffer, and it makes you see politics through very different lenses. I stock my class with nutritious goodies for breakfast and lunch. Days when I cannot get the lunch ladies to provide a free ­lunch for my students, I will always buy them lunch because they need nourishment to learn.

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