Once I figured that out, a couple of logistics became clear: keep food available, and individual servings worked best. It took a little longer to realize it could also be used as a counseling tool.
Meanwhile, one of the perks of being in a low-income school was outside funding and programs that sometimes came our way. Students really liked when groups came in because they were a way out of class and work. And if you played your cards right, maybe even a little recreation.
Donnell had already been at the alternative school a year when I came at the beginning of his freshmen year. He wasn't a bad kid, just a little too goofy. For some strange reason, the few girls we had in the program thought Donnell was pretty cute and funny.
During one of the presentations, Donnell decided the cleaning closet was a good place to show some of the girls how much fun he was. Can we say, "Gross?"
Faster than the speed of a juvy officer on a case, students couldn't wait to share what had been going on down the hall, while unsuspecting presenters were showing slides in the gym.
The next morning I greeted Donnell at the classroom door eating a cup of tapioca pudding. His classmates were scattered around the round about to bust a gut.
In his usual playful way, Donnell asked if he could have some pudding. "Sure," I said, showing him the inside of the cup. Watching Donnell go from black to white to red, I gave him my sweetest smile and asked, "Don't you like tapioca?"
It was great!
After we all calmed down and quit laughing, I told Donnell I was careful about who I shared my pudding with, and maybe he should be, too.
And you know what, Dear Reader? Aside from taking a stand for "safe sex", the students and I learned we could laugh together. That was a good day's work!