Some students are at risk of going hungry during the first days of the school year. Kids who might qualify for a free or reduced price lunch may not be in the program yet, and they might not have anything to eat. As a teacher, you can save the day by watching out for these kids.
Walk with your students to lunch during the first days of school. Stay and watch them go through the lunch line and/or take a seat at the table. You might notice a student who has neither a hot nor a cold lunch. Or you might notice a student who gets to the front of the lunch line and is confused when asked for payment. You can swoop in and save the day.
How you save the day depends on a lot of things. In one situation, I just paid a student’s account for a few weeks until the school sorted out the situation. (I did it on the quiet; the student and parent did not know.) The student was an English Language Learner and the parent was new to the country. It took a while to explain that there was a program in place and to enroll the child.
You might also be able to speak with the cafeteria manager, social worker or principal. Someone is going to help make sure that the child gets a lunch. You will be glad that you noticed the problem and were able to make a difference in a child’s daily life.
Consider asking parents to write you a letter about their child. A personal letter from the people who know your student best can inform your teaching for the entire school year.
Many letters will be straightforward: basic info about likes and dislikes, favorite subjects, etc. However, some parents will be glad of the opportunity to share special concerns. You might learn about family circumstances, health issues, or previous experiences with school that affect how the student learns and behaves.
Be judicious about whether you request a letter from families. At some schools, parents would welcome the chance to communicate in writing. At others, parents may feel like you are giving them a writing assessment. Another possible issue is a language barrier–but you never know. You might find that some parents are happy to write you a letter in their native language. Chances are that someone in the district can translate for you–or you can get a rough idea with a Google translation.
Back to school night is a good time to request the letter, but it’s not the only opportunity. Your school might have an Open House a few weeks into the school year. By that time, the rush is past and everyone, including you, has more time to devote to the assignment.
A clear complement to the letter-from-a-parent is the letter-from-a-student. An open-ended letter about the student makes a good writing assessment and informative piece for your files.