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May 26, 2009

Teachers, Students, and The Recession

Recession My very first teaching job was in one of the lowest achieving schools in an affluent area.  The faculty meeting in late September included the topic of coats for the impending cold weather.  Several students would not have coats, and we the faculty had a discussion as to how we could gather coats from the community:  soliciting donations from businesses, scouring the local Goodwill stores, and even cleaning out our own closets.

I walked away from that meeting shaking my head, dismayed to learn that many of my own students lacked coats.  Moreover, I was shocked to discover that the teachers were working to ensure the children wouldn’t get cold.  What happened to just teaching the three Rs?  

I knew that being a teacher doesn’t just mean classroom teaching.  I knew all about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but I didn’t think it was my task to ensure my students had their basic needs met.  Wasn’t that up to the parents?  And if the parents failed, then wouldn’t it fall to social services to care for the kids?

The fact of the matter was that I, a teacher, had direct contact with these kids.  To wait for social services to take action would take time.  Teachers are where the rubber meets the road…and of course I cared for my students.  Of course I would do whatever I could, as much as I could.  If not me, than who?  With that in mind, I headed to the local Salvation Army Thrift Store and purchased an armful of coats that would be discreetly given to the children in need.

That was in the mid-90s, when there wasn’t a recession in this country.  I am no longer a teacher, but I still find myself wondering how current school teachers are helping the children they teach.  Are their students’ basic needs met?  If not, are the teachers receiving support from the community to help these children of the recession?

I am aware of a few local elementary schools that participate in the BackPack Program.  This program ensures that children who are on free and reduced lunches receive food over weekends and school holidays.  Food is distributed quietly on Fridays into the children’s backpacks.  I have already donated food and will continue to do so whatever I can.  I am also making a point to donate outgrown clothes to places where it will be directly received by those in need.  

My family is not wealthy by any means.  When my children ask why we are doing these things, I answer them honestly:  there are others who do not have as much as we do and we should help if we can.  This is a lesson that is important and is one that I hope will be memorable to them for the rest of their lives.

In a recession, we need to be doubly sure that all people’s basic needs are met.  How else can we help those who are in direct contact with the kids?  These teachers perform more than just an education of the three Rs. 

I want to help.

This is an original post to DC Metro Moms Blog.  Michelle blogs at Wife and Mommy


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