Friday, July 16, 2010

Needed: parenting education

School is out for the summer, and I am out on maternity leave, but I am still thinking about some of my students. One of the students, first written about here has been on my mind a lot. Before the end of the school year, he arrived nearly 90 minutes late to school. His mother explained that they had overslept and missed the school bus. I noticed that the child was crying hysterically and asked the parent what happened. She explained to me that the child was hungry. I noticed that she was eating a bagel and carrying a large container of chocolate milk.

After taking a deep breath, I explained that breakfast at school was over and we were still nearly 90 minutes away from lunch. The mother looked at me with a blank face. I stated calmly that children who are hungry cannot learn. Still she continued to look at me and stuff pieces of bagel in her own mouth, seemingly not bothered by her now screaming child. Finally, I explained again that breakfast at school was over and that her child appeared really hungry. When I suggested that she share the bagel and the chocolate milk with her child, she told me that it was hers. It became increasingly difficult at this point to keep calm and not scream in this woman's face, but somehow or another I managed. I said that she could either sit in the hall and share her food with her child or that she and I and the child go to the nurse and she could explain all of this to the school nurse.

Of course all of this is happening in the midst of center time, so I am also trying to support the other students. Once I put the chairs in the hallway the mother and child sat down and she just stared at me for a while. I supervised this situation from doorway. She ultimately did end up sharing some of the bagel and the chocolate milk with her child. I was floored by the fact that I had to explicitly tell her to do so and it made me think a lot about parenting.

I thought that once you became a parent, certain things were supposed to become natural. Like recognizing this other human being, his needs, and a desire to help him meet those needs. I think I sound judgmental here. I am sure that as a woman, an individual and a parent that she has her own needs and objectives. Maybe she did give the child some food before they arrived at school. But as the classroom teacher, my job is to look out for the needs of my students and advocate for them when those needs are not being met. Needless to say, it was a challenging situation.

When I go back to it in my mind, the parenting educator certification program offered at my alma mater looks really enticing. It makes me want to work with administrators both in the district and in my school building to find ways to support and encourage parents so that situations like these can be minimized or even, ideally eliminated. If that exact situation presented itself again, I am not sure what I would do differently. What, if anything, would you have done? Let the child cry? Beg a small snack from another teacher? Take the child to the office and explain the situation to an administrator?

This particular child will be back in September as far as I know. I can only hope that he has adequate access to food throughout the summer and that this incident was a one time incident and not a chronic occurrence for him.


  1. Wow, that's really shocking!! I think you totally did the right thing. It just boggles my mind that you had to force her to feed her child! I hope the situation has improved by September!

  2. I'm not sure how I would have responded to this situation but I think you did a great job! I can only hope that if I am faced with a similar situation I will be able to remain calm.