Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Appalachia Orthodontia

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia,
Stood a cow on the railroad tracks.
'Twas a nice old cow,
With eyes so fine...
But you can't expect a cow
To read a railroad sign.
So, she stood in the middle of the track,
And the train came along
And hit her right in the back!
Now, her horns are in the mountains of Virginia,
And her tail is on the lonesome spine.
Whenever I hear about Appalachia, I remember this "parody" song my mother taught me. She probably learned it when she married and went to visit her inlaws in Eastern Kentucky. This is right next to Western Virginia. I think the original song was "On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine" and was popular in her day. I think it referred to the "animals" in Appalachia not being too smart or used to civilization. This is an isolated area of our country and it is out of touch even today. Last week, Diane Sawyer, who is from Ky., did a "20/20" dedicated to the children of this poverty stricken area.
It was very heart wrenching for me having visited there many times as a kid. I wasn't aware of their plight then and saw no evidence of poor nutrition, drugs etc. I have written about my blissful summer days there and all the fun we had. The homes in the area I visited, my grandparent's, had small farms with "kitchen gardens" for "greens" and chickens, cows etc. Their "collard greens, string beans, corn bread etc. were delicious. Yes, they smoked and chewed "tobacky", as they called it. Their teeth were probably not the adults. I went online and volunteered to help.
This last week, I had a bit of a shock teaching a local second grader. She came in early and showed me a big gap in her teeth. This isn't unusual for this age to lose their "baby teeth". I replied, as I usually do, "You saved them for the tooth fairy, right?" "No," she said, "the Dental kept them." "Oh, you had them pulled?" "No, they were loose, like this one and had to come out." I then noticed how decayed her few other teeth were. "Too many sweets," she said, matter-of-factly.
On the long walk to the cafeteria, she was last in line and continued her "comments" me(?) "I hope I get some extra food from some of the kids today because all we have at home is a box of cereal." "Will the ladies give you extra?" "No, but some kids will, before they throw it away."
I came over to where she was sitting with her friend and noticed she only had a sweet, chocolate milk pouch and five small chicken nuggets. She and her buddy proceeded to take each nugget and break it up into little (less than) bite-sized pieces. I asked her why she did that and she said they were easier to chew. Other kids had also chosen an apple and a box of raisins. I asked her why she hadn't picked an apple. "I can't bite it, my teeth will come out...(painful face)." I went and found her a raisin box. I asked her later if she had eaten the raisins? She said no because she didn't like raisins. They are full of iron, but sweet.
At the 2:P.M. recess the regular teacher had left a snack of graham crackers in wax paper. I asked her to pass them out individually to each kid as they went out to the playground. There were four left at the bottom of the pack. I told her she could have them and take them home. "Don't eat them in class." She was overjoyed.
She did all her lessons and got 100% on her math test. She was attentive and had fun with our music and drama skits later. She was out-going and vivacious with many of her classmates. I felt so sorry for her and I left the regular teacher a detailed note. I hope the nurse or principal follows up. You have an excellent example here of the beginning of a real health/educational problem that is probably more prevalent in our local classrooms. It is a real-life demonstration of "hierarchy of needs" (Maslow?) Most of the kids get breakfast and lunch from this school. The bus brings many of them early and they have to stand and wait in the cold, windy, outdoor hallway for several minutes before the food is ready in the A.M. The schedule of the bus gets them there too early and school doesn't start until 9:05. Lunch is before noon and a P.M. snack is afterschool for those (most) who have to stay until 5 or 6 P.M. in day care waiting for their parents to pick them up. And we wonder why our educational system is failing us? It starts at home and seems to continue at school. Have we learned nothing from that cow in the Blue Ridge Mountains? RRR

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