I just watched the end of a documentary on NH PBS today called, "Where We Stand: America's Schools in the 21st Century" and was struck by a quote by a principal of a low income school. She said something along the lines of, "If you need your hair combed, we'll comb it. If you need clean clothes, we have them. If you need to eat, we'll feed you."
I have been doing this day in and day out for as long as I have been teaching. No complaints, no arguments, just combing hair, doing laundry and buying lunches so my students can get on with the business of learning. At my last monthly team meeting we discussed taking up a collection to pay for lunches for students who do not bring lunches or lunch money, because no one can learn if they are hungry. I've bought winter coats, toothbrushes and more ponytail holders than I can count.
And those outside the field wonder why the average teacher lasts less than three years?
Imagine if all schools made a commitment, backed by funding from the government, to make sure every child was relatively healthy, clean and fed? And to make sure that every classroom was clean, equipped, and at a comfortable temperature? Surely it is not the child's fault that they are unkempt and/or unfed and certainly it should not fall on the teacher to fix it? A systematic problem deserves a systematic solution.