Fulfilling other needs - Making Education more synonymous

Sometimes I like to order a cup of coffee when I sit down with students and parents.

Photo of Andre Douglas
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If you got to know me, you would understand that food is such a huge influence in my life. Food is one of the most basic necessities for life, yet the statistics relating to it are staggering:

  • 1 in 7 people do not get enough to eat each day
  • Nearly 1 in 4 households participate in government assistance programs to attain food
  • Nearly 1 in 5 children have inconsistent access to food

I have personally been a part of these statistics, and I can say that it is not easy to ask for help as a child or parent in these circumstances.

As a result of these things and other factors, I mostly conduct my conferences around food or in a cafe/restaurant. I have a bowl of candy on my office desk to not only lure students in to talk to me, but also so that they will sit down and actually talk to me. When I meet with students outside of school, we usually go to a cafe and get tea or coffee and a cookie or a small sandwich. When I meet with parents, I have water and small snacks or finger foods readily available. Not only is food drawing in more people to meet with me, but it also does a few more things:

  1. It is fulfilling an essential need of some people
  2. It is creating a positive memory/experience
  3. It helps create a relationship and open dialogue between people

Now, I am not suggesting that food be always present at parent student teacher conferences (although that would be great), but maybe tying these conferences to other goals and needs would be the first step forward. 

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

Sometimes, just talking about education isn't enough. We need to open a dialogue, create relationships, and look at completing different goals and tasks.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Clint Heitz

Andre - If you'd be willing, I would greatly appreciate your support for Guideposts to Success by heading to the post and leaving a positive evaluation, as well as suggestions to grow the idea even more! Thank you!

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Andre, I couldn't agree more about how food can change the flow of an event. I posted an analogous experience about the restaurant industry that gave me similar insights. Love where this is going...

Photo of Michael Schurr

Hi Andre! I could not agree with you more.  Food is such an important component in getting people in the door.  I wonder if you could ask some of your students about their experience in your office in relationship to food.  and/or families about their experience. What was it like to be offered food during the meeting? How did you feel? 

Curiosity, when you have done the meeting in the cafe, how did paying work?

Photo of Andre Douglas

For the most part, a lot of my students like it because it's a good distraction as well as a segway into some topics as well. I felt as it was a way to make sure there was a line of communication always there between everyone. When words failed, body language and food prevailed.

In terms of paying, I typically go to cafes so that I can buy some small items like cookies and cake for a fair price and then when it came to more food, I offered to pay, but most times the parents/students offered to buy me food if that happened.