The Children — you know, my teenaged students — are working in groups today. Rather raucous groups, given their project. And they are bickering with one another.
One particular pair of boys is relentless, each finding fault with every solitary word of the other’s work. Finally, one turns to me.
“Miss, I’m hungry.”
“Hungry?” I echo, switching into standard response mode. “You just came from lunch.”
“I didn’t eat,” he tells me. “I have to pay.”
Which is code for the knowledge that he’s on reduced lunch instead of free and did not, for whatever reason, have his forty cents come lunchtime. Maybe he left it at home; maybe there wasn’t any at home. Maybe he bought school breakfast; maybe he bought chips for breakfast.
As a pressing matter, however, why he didn’t have lunch is less important than that he didn’t have lunch.
“I have trail mix,” I offered, holding up a half filled plastic bag. I make some up weekly and keep it in my backpack for prepacked breakfast and intermittent snacks.
He took it. He and his friend, the student with whom he had been arguing, ate. And started to write. Productively. While they certainly still talked, the strains of sniping left their conversation altogether.
“Miss,” a nearby student looked at them, then over to me. “Did you give them that just so they’d be quiet?”
Well, no. Not really.
Though, just the same, I’d be lying if I said I did not appreciate that as a secondary result.