Guthridge fourth grade teacher Allie Jones knew there were students who come to school every day without their basic needs being met.
“Everything they teach us in school is, if a kid’s needs aren’t being met they can’t learn,” Jones said.
If a student is hungry, or embarrassed because of body odor, or has some other issue, that is where their focus will return to multiple times a day, or where it starts and remains.
Jones decided she wanted to make her classroom a place students can learn by removing some of those barriers as much as possible.
Her solution: The Self Love Station.
“I started this in July. It kind of started as a dream,” Jones said. “I knew we were in such a low-income area that kids come to school without their needs being met every day.
“I created an Amazon wish list and shared it on social media and within days I had family members, friends and strangers, sending all these things to my front door and that was amazing.”
She wanted to ensure snacks were available, should a student be hungry. As well, she wanted to provide basics, like toothbrushes and deodorant.
“It’s gone super well. Everything that is here right now is stuff that people in the community have sent me,” Jones said. “The children have done so well with it. I tell them, ‘If you don’t need it, don’t take it. If you need it, go get it.’ We talked about how honesty is the best policy.
Jones said she was a little nervous at first, because the students were going through a lot of snacks. She received her mini grant from the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) and spent it on snacks to be able to refill the shelves.
Things began to level out within a couple of weeks. Students have been learning to self-regulate. They will evaluate that they just finished breakfast or lunch a short time ago, so have no need of a snack at that time.
“They do very well at not taking advantage of it, too, which has really impressed me. I feel like I have a lot less in and out of the classroom,” Jones said. “I have a lot less, ‘I need to go to the nurse because my stomach hurts,’ and less, ‘Oh, I need to go to the bathroom,’ all the time.”
Both students in need, and those who are not, are figuring things out. There are some students who don’t ever get a snack or an item, as they understand they have no need. Others are learning they can fulfill their needs to help them get through a day of learning.
‘I don’t ever ask too many questions,” Jones said. “Some are embarrassed to ask. Some will ask if they can go get something from the Self Love Station. They will get something and quietly walk out and come back. They’ve done very well with being mature about it. They have done very well about getting what they need and discreetly going and coming back.”
Jones said she wants to keep the traction going and keep it building because of the difference she is seeing in how students are responding in class with some of their basic needs being met.
“It’s made a big difference, in my opinion,” she said.