Students aren’t allowed to eat in the classroom. And teachers aren’t allowed to bring in any snacks or treats. The only exception is the occasional piece of candy they get taped to a test or assignment, and they’re under strict orders to put it away and eat it later.
So, when a student sneaks food to me, is it a ploy to let them eat in class; is it bribery or a sincere gift? Quite possibly all the above.
Here are a few recent examples…
One of my eight-year old students was at school almost 30 minutes early. Bored to bits, pacing the halls like a caged tiger, peeking his head into the strictly off-limits teacher’s room and saying “Teacher, Teacher, Hi Teacher!”. About the fifth time ‘greeting’ me, he added, “Come! Please!”
“No, (thanks!), I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Teacher, please! Come!” He motions that he has to something to give me.
Finally, I go to the door. He transfers from his hands to mine, a heap of somewhat worse for wear, potato chips. “For you!,” he says triumphantly.
What do I do with this ‘gift’? I stuffed the whole handful of chips directly in my mouth. While wondering why were the chips slightly moist and not really crunchy, I made a note to myself, figure out another option for next time.
The next day, I was walking out of the restroom. One of my former students, a seven-year-old girl, grabbed my hand, dashed into the restroom, pulling me with her and closed the door. Oh no, what mishap?, I wondered. She held the door closed with her body, while she wrangled a lollipop from her pants pocket. She tucked it into my hand with a quick smile, then opened the door and darted off to her class.
I walked into a middle school class before the bell rang, and ‘busted’ them eating. No thanks, I said, when they offered me some. Here, you’ve got to try it! It’s a Korean snack! It’s so good! It looks like uncooked ramen noodles, broken up. (The package even has directions with a warning, don’t cook this!) Ignoring my ‘no’, they tried to stuff some in my mouth for me, insisting I’d love it. That time, I was quick enough to get away!
Finally, a new student joined a middle school class. The other students were griping about the class, as they had to do a pretty difficult listening test. But the new guy enjoyed the thrill of the new environment, the students, the class and maybe even the teacher. Standing in line, waiting for the bell to ring, the others whined about life or edged in front of each other to leave class a fraction of a second earlier.
The new guy was oblivious to all of that. He stood there glowing. Suddenly, he reached into his bag and produced a piece of gum, wrapped and new looking in ‘mint’ condition (haha). I accepted the gift, said thanks and mumbled that I couldn’t eat it now, but would keep it. When I looked back at him, he had a sad look then a smile flashed. He must have thought that one piece wasn’t quite enough. He dug around and quickly produced a second piece of unscathed, beautifully wrapped gum, placed it in my hand and then smiled contently.
The bell rang, the other students left in a mob, he made a quick headbow goodbye, smiled and floated out the door and down the hall.