As the TFA Corps members explained the severity of the Achievement Gap during the first week of C2C, I imagined tackling such a grand societal problem. I began to wonder whether everyone in the room actually believed the achievement gap and health disparity gap could be closed. Immediately, I realized the answer: Yes, they truly do. Each person in the room, including myself, be it hopefully or idealistic, believed that the achievement gap could be closed and health disparities eliminated.
It occurred to me how fortunate we are to be surrounded by such dedicated and motivating colleagues because both the achievement gap and stark health disparities remain pervasive. In fact, it is likely neither can be completely addressed without solving the other. Being in Molly’s classroom was an aching reminder of the health disparities already manifesting in students by the first grade.
Many children arrive at school smelling like tobacco or marijuana smoke, meaning students are likely exposed to other drugs without detectable odors to linger on students’ clothing. Hunger and nutrition are also urgent problems, as many students only consistently eat two meals a day on the days the school provides breakfast and lunch. Several of Molly’s students have vision issues, but cannot afford glasses or the problem remains undiagnosed. Finally, the cold and flu present issues for Molly’s classroom. Often, children cannot stay home because their parents have no sick days so, they come to school sick, spread illnesses, and remain sick for an extended period of time because they lack access to doctors.
However, in my first brief visits to her classroom, these health issues remained invisible to me. Extended time with her students allowed Molly to recognize such prevalent, often hidden health issues. Surely, a public health professional visiting may initially miss these issues. Thus, the importance of partnership between TFA and RSPH that C2C fosters became very clear to me
To my fellow C2C participants, what health issues have you noticed in your classroom and how do they inform the discussion on health disparities perpetuating the achievement gap? To my public health peers, how apparent were these health issues in your early visits to your classroom?
- Sara Millimet
- Sara Millimet