Middle Grade Monday – Being the Change
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with the reality of the impact of poverty on the lives of the children I see every day. Many of my students come from homes where the adults work multiple jobs that add up to more than 40 hours a week each. But the pay they receive is so low, they are barely able to keep their families clothed and fed. Some of them need help to keep their electricity on. There is no money for extras. There is certainly no money for field trips – especially not $80 field trips to Washington, D.C.
We do have a system for providing scholarships to some students. I requested one be provided for a student who is new to us this year when I found out her family was unable to pay. Normally, new eighth grade students slip by my radar, but this one is different. She visits the library almost every morning to get a book or two, bringing different friends most mornings, convincing them to check out books she has enjoyed. She greets me every morning, asks me how I am, is always extremely polite. I was deeply invested in this student having an opportunity to visit our nation’s capitol. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out that, for this field trip, there would be no scholarships.
After contemplating this reality for a few moments, I decided to act on my impulse to provide the field trip fee myself. I do have the funds available at the moment (tax refund.) And honestly, nothing makes me feel more financially blessed than when I am able to do something like this. I feel confident that this student will take full advantage of the opportunity.
So, the next time I feel overwhelmed by the realities of living in a country where many employers ask themselves, “How little can I pay my employees so that I can maximize my profits?” rather than “How much can I pay my employees and still operate a thriving business?” I think I will dwell on what I can do, what is within my realm of control, instead.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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