Generosity is what teachers do

Guest blog by Ashley Warren, Lead Teacher, Person County, NC

My school has many students who receive free and reduced lunch. If you have ever worked in a school with high poverty, you understand the needs of these students. I have students who fight to be first in line for breakfast because they are hungry when they arrive at school. Some students never bring school supplies because their houses are so disorganized they are lucky to find clothes in the morning. And some students’ misbehave before a long holiday because they feel anxious about losing the structure school provides in their lives. Teaching in this kind of environment is a real challenge.

Last year, we had a predominantly new staff. Many teachers had never experienced working in a school where students had this many needs.  Some came in with preconceived notions about the students and their parents. I was probably guilty of that, too. One thing that turned it all around was the generosity of a few community members and teachers.

A local organization started a backpack program to send food home on the weekends. Many teachers generously donated food items and their time. The parents were so grateful. Many came in on Fridays to pick up the backpacks. This allowed for interactions that would not have occurred without the program.  Teachers felt the appreciation of the families. This led many teachers to be more generous, some adopted families for Christmas last year and this year.

Because of this program, I have seen teachers become advocates for their students. They know we have to meet students’ basic needs before we can meet their academic needs.  Students also know the school cares about them. This makes them more trusting of the staff and eager to please. It has been a powerful thing to witness!

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