I was sitting in a Starbucks this morning, waiting for a coffee companion who would ultimately never show. I had arrived to our meeting early, intending to prepare and organize a few notes, but instead I started writing. Here's what happened:
Friday I had an interesting interaction with two of my students. The first was a fifth grade girl. She had opened the fridge where our students keep their water bottles. provided by the program, and where I keep the students' drinks and dinners for the week. You may also find the occasionally abandoned soft drink, not to mention at least 2 bottles each of chocolate and strawberry syrup used to flavor the white milk almost none of my students want to drink. A little flavor goes a long way.
Anyway, she's opened the fridge to get her water bottle, which is numbered to discourage students from sharing more than just water. Standing with the fridge open, she realizes her bottle is empty and says that she'll just drink from her older brother's bottle. She's going to wait for us "to fill up her bottle" for her.
I looked at her and stated simply that LA and I are not responsible for filling up the bottles. The only time we even worry with them is when we wash them [or pick them up from the table, floor, desk, playground, etc where they are carelessly left]. Despite her family's presence in our program for a number of years, this student seemed surprised that it was her responsibility to refill her water. [And as far as I know, she still didn't fill it!]
The second occurred while on our field trip last week. The students visited a local credit union to deposit the money they earn for grades each nine weeks. I sent two boys in to use the restroom and followed them in to see how many students were still in line. Clearly, the boys weren't aware I had followed them inside. Both boys, despite have to go "so badly" stopped at the desk just inside the door and asked for a dum-dum sucker. Normally I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but both students had already deposited their money and, upon doing so successfully, had received a plastic cup and 2 suckers.
I am not ok with my students expecting to receive things when we go on field trips. [On the flip side, I am grateful for the generous hearts of people within our community]. Part of me wonders about myself in this situation. I'll admit, I chastised the boys once they got outside. They had already received, were already given where gifts were not expected, and then returned to ask for more. I think, why point out and correct over something as small as a dum-dum when my students already have so little?
But I also wonder, where does this sense of entitlement come from? What does this say about how we are meeting the needs of these students and their families? I strive to empower my students, not come at their every call. I want my students to work hard, advocate for themselves, and earn what they get.
My students thrive on questions. Anytime something new is in the office, there are endless questions. Are those for us? Can I have it now? When? What's it for? Where did you get it? When can I have it? Who's it for? Why is it here? Is it going to stay here? Did you eat cake without me? [This last one is a particular favorite, and it was asked only one day. Another group had had a parent meeting and served cake, the remainder of which was in the trash. More than one student came by, looked in the trash, and wanted to know who had cake and if they would get any. All before they even said hello].
I do want them to feel comfortable asking for things, particularly help. I want to give them the tools they need to succeed.
I do not want them to be given everything, to expect gifts each time we go into the community. Nor do I want to deny them little joys, or rush them into growing up. They are entitled to a childhood. Where's the balance here? Am I wrong?