Want to Help

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got a job in a very poor rural school district. I teach English as a
second language to all district students, grades 1-12. Ignoring for the
moment, please, any issues related to the politics of immigration, can
you help me figure out how to compensate for the fact that virtually
none of these students live in a home where they get support from an
English-speaking parent and most are even poorer than their English-
speaking schoolmates. I started an after-school homework club so I
can work individually with the most motivated of them, many of whom
are latch-key anyhow and have no safe place to spend time after
school. I don’t mind volunteering my time and energy, but I can’t
make up for an entire school system’s budgetary deficiencies. And
these kids are poor, poor, poor. They seem to have nothing but the
clothes they show up in.

Want to Help

Dear Want to Help:

A great technique one of my teaching friends uses is a Prize Box. It
works something like this. Kids who come to the after school
Homework Club can earn coupons by completing their homework, and
perhaps half of a coupon for showing up. When they earn five coupons
they can use them to trade for things from the Prize Box. What’s in the
box? Anything that’ll attract a kid’s attention.

You can find all sorts of things for free or very cheaply in your own
home and at garage sales. You can also solicit donations from your
friends and family. Try emotional bait like this: Wanted for my very
underprivileged students: Small objects for my classroom Prize Box.
Do you have any cool things you want to clean out of drawers clear
and out of your life? Good prizes are anything from cool rocks, to
action figures; books, books, books; beads, crafty items, or jewelry;
figurines, games, DVDs, or anything your kid loved and is still in
presentable conditions. If you have donations (sorry no tax break),
put them in a bag and email me. I’ll pick them up and say thank you.