Deanaland

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Fed up


I've been having lunch with Julia at school once a week since she was in kindergarten and I've about HAD IT with something. Not the kids -- they are lots of fun. Not the food -- I bring my own. It's the teachers on cafeteria duty.

Every single time I've been there, these women are on the verge of having coronaries over the noise in the lunchroom. They walk up and down the aisles yelling at kids to be quiet. When that doesn't work, they turn off the lights and put all the kids on "silence." (Fun way to spend lunch with your child.) They have also had all the kids sit on one side of the table to cut down on noise. But none of these things seem to work. Do you know why? Because when you pack a not-huge room full of kids, there will be noise. But the teachers don't get it. So they just keep yelling.

When I was there last week, a sweet little guy in Julia's class got in trouble for trying to help Jenna figure out her Burger King Kid's Meal toy. That same day, I saw a girl sitting alone at a table as I was leaving. She was in Julia's class last year. She's really sweet, too -- a Katrina refugee who never got to go home. I spoke to her and mentioned I had seen her picture in the paper a few days earlier from when she marched in the local MLK Day parade. She just smiled and nodded, and I realized I wasn't supposed to be talking to her. She was sitting alone because she was in trouble for talking too loud.

It was bad in Baytown, too. This one lunchroom lady was always screaming at the bilingual kids in Spanish to shut up. (I lived in New Mexico as a kid long enough to pick up a few words.) This was when Jenna was a newborn, and the woman would come over to us and make a fuss about how cute Jenna was. Then she would turn back around and scream at the Hispanic kids to shut up again. She was so excited about her retirement at the end of that year. So were we.

I just think our kids work hard in school and shouldn't have to be constantly berated during lunchtime. I wouldn't want to spend my lunch hour like that every day.

Sort-of a sidenote: The other day, Julia's class had read a paragraph about how to make fruit kabobs (spearing fruit on a toothpick to serve at parties). Julia thought it was a neat idea. So at lunch, she took her Capri Sun straw and stuck it through the mango slices I had packed in her lunch. She got in trouble with a teacher in the cafeteria for "playing with her food." Hey, at least she was being quiet.

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22 Comments:

  • At Sun Feb 03, 08:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Amen, Amen, Amen!!! They aren't exactly training them for real life are they? I don't usually have lunch with my friends or family in total silence! My 4th grader has to sit between the two worst kids in class at lunch(because they were too loud beside each other), so they throw her food, mess with her, etc. She now hates lunch time and rarely eats because she is defending herself the whole time. Can you tell you touched a nerve?
    Carrie

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 04:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a former teacher, I can see both sides of the story.

    Teachers have to get a large amount of children into the cafeteria, through the line, and to eat in about 20 minutes. The "getting the child to eat" is the hardest part, especially when parents call wondering why sweet little Jannie had a completely full lunch box upon returning home. Not fun. They likely have a principal addressing "cafeteria concerns" (meaning children who talk)at monthly staff meetings. Our principal went so far as to reward the quietest grade level. Also, they just want to run off to the teachers lounge and eat their own lunch in peace where they can talk with their friends.

    Kids just want to talk and have fun. With recess being cut shorter and shorter (ours was actually made into structured play...oh the horror), kids need a chance to socialize in the school day.

    The balance I believe can be found in making the cafeteria fun, yet structured. Round, family-style tables can allow for conversation, but also keep it to small groups. Lessons centered around table manners (which means talking at appropriate levels) would teach appropriate social skills when eating. The cafeteria can be fun, while being well-organized, if teachers and administrators took the time to step back and fix the problem. Also, the PTA getting parents to volunteer to do lunch duty on occasion gives teachers a break.

    Just a thought....

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 05:45:00 AM, Blogger Melinda said…

    It's bad, in fact I found it so bad one year, and I'm the school nurse. That my daughter's teacher and I had lunch with their class for several days and sat a table apart and passed a salt shaker back and forth and talked. The cafeteria monitors never got on to her class again. Maybe it was because we promised if the kids couldn't talk during lunch, we would continue to eat lunch with them and pass the salt. I really think you can fix it you just need to get some mommy's together. I think the kids not getting some down time upsets us all. Melinda

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 06:50:00 AM, Blogger courtney said…

    It's insane. I went to eat lunch with my daughter last week on her birthday and we had to sit in silence practically the whole time. It made me so mad. The teacher kept getting on the microphone and telling the kids to be quiet b/c the 3rd graders were taking their Pre-TAKS test (on the other side of the building). I understand the need for controlled volume, but no talking at all is unacceptable. Lunchtime is usually the only time during the day that the kids have to socialize at all.

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Susan said…

    This seems to be a common problem. It has gotten better at my sons' school in the last couple of years though. The rule is the first 10 minutes are silent, then they turn on a neon "cafe" sign signaling that the kids can talk quietly. If they get too loud, the light goes back off and no more talking. It has helped, but not completley fixed the issue.

    Also, no teacher should have to do that. Office staff takes care of it here. Gives those teachers a tiny break.

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 09:33:00 AM, Blogger SG said…

    Oh, don't get me started!!!!
    I wrote a letter to the principal at my daughters school about this very thing last year.. and it's the only letter I have ever written expressing my concern over a school policy in the 5 years we have been at this school. I hate to go to lunch at my children's school now. It makes me so upset. They are treated like high-schoolers and they are only K through 4th graders!
    Yes, there are kids who abuse the free talk time, but why should the whole school have to eat in silence? (this regularly happens!)

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 10:40:00 AM, Blogger Snapshot said…

    And we wonder why so many kids have eating disorders.

    If you are a lunch room worker or a teacher and you really desire a quiet lunch time....take the day off or better yet find a new job.

    I realize the teaching profession is difficult and yes probably even more difficult than it has ever been, but this is just an example of how they make situations worse, not better.

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Deana Nall said…

    I do need to correct one thing: the women in the cafeteria at Julia's school are aides and not teachers.

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 12:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I taught elem. for seven years. Aides always did lunch duty. I always felt bad for my students! I got to go to the teacher's lounge, talk and laugh while my students were yelled at for doing what comes natural at meal times! I took my students to my classroom or for an outside picnic once a month b/c I felt for them.

    Don't get me started on yelling. Yelling at students doesn't work. If anything, the quieter I got the more they listened.

    The round tables really help. I taught in one school with them.

    Looks like you've touch a nerve w/ a lot of teachers and moms today!
    CP

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 03:53:00 PM, Blogger Heather said…

    Seems like, most of the time at our school, the kids are allowed to talk for a majority of the lunch period, then the last 5 minutes they go to "silent lunch". It's the days that they've behaved badly (how does a whole grade do that???), that they get silent lunch. That may be the difference between aides and teachers in the lunch room. Our teachers split duty -- half of them do lunch duty, half of them do recess duty -- so they all get to eat lunch in peace.

    We have had times when the kids have been bribed by the principal (you know . . .Matt) that he'll rap for them if they'll finish quietly or clean quickly or something. They'll do just about anything to hear a rap out of him!

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 05:29:00 PM, Blogger KentF said…

    Yes, aides are the worst - just really pretty rude people - hate to generalize. We would often provide lunch or some food for the teachers and wondered why the first group through would horde food like, well, like food-horders. Turns out they weren't teachers - but aides. Should have seen the looks on their faces when we told them there was a two slice minimum until ALL teachers had some pizza.

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 05:30:00 PM, Blogger KentF said…

    hmm, sorry, that would be maximum - not minimum. I think you get the point.

     
  • At Mon Feb 04, 06:34:00 PM, Blogger Angela said…

    I've shared school lunchtimes with my children in Denison,TX, Pasadena,TX, and now Searcy,AR. All three have had some form of volume control - one even had an actual traffic signal that would go to yellow and then to red if the children got too loud. It's pretty miserable to feel like you can't chat with your own kid or get to know their little friends! I think what bothered me even more though is that all three of these schools had such a brief lunch period that the children didn't even have time to look up much less have a little conversation with a buddy!

     
  • At Tue Feb 05, 06:34:00 AM, Anonymous chris said…

    Is this a generational thing? I don't remember this being a problem in the 1940's and 50's in my school.

     
  • At Wed Feb 06, 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Mary Lou said…

    I taught elementary school for 33 years. When I first started teaching all of the teachers were in charge of their own classes at lunch. We sat and ate lunch with our students at their tables or at a teacher's table in the lunchroom. We didn't yell and there was no need. We watched the children and if a child wasn't eating b/c of talking too much, we just made them sit by us so they would eat. The kids visited with their "neighbors" using "inside" voices and all was peaceful. Not perfect, but we didn't have near the problems that the cafeterias have today. They talked, but not loudly and enjoyed lunch. Then,about 15 or so years ago, TEA made a ruling that teachers had to have duty-free lunch. That was when all of the discipline and order went out the window in my opinion. Schools are larger now. So, now there are more kids to get served, eat and out of the way of the next class to use their table. They don't have time to eat if they talk too. The paraprofessionals, office workers, assistants that had work lunch duty, aren't a match for all the teachers that used to be in the cafeteria at one time with their own classes. Eating lunch with the other teachers was okay, but I would rather have had an extra planning period. I feel strongly that taking the teachers out of the cafeteria with their classes is why all the problems came about. I witnessed it happen almost immediately after the duty-free lunch rule. Too many children in the lunch room with too few, qualified people to manage the crowd. The duty people are frustrated because they are being told to keep the kids quiet. They also don't want to do this duty. Its the duty you'll hear them talk about hating to do. I'm not saying that it justifies yelling at the children, I'm just giving background on what I believe caused the current situation. The answer to the problem is to put the teachers back into the cafeteria with their classes. At one school, we had to eat lunch with our own classes for the first two weeks of school. It was always a pleasant experience and the kids were not too loud. That third week, the teachers went back to the lounge for lunch and the aides had it alone. Noise was very loud. Too many kids, not enough professionals in the cafeteria.

     
  • At Thu Feb 07, 07:36:00 PM, Blogger Mae said…

    At the middle school where i teach it's not any better instead of using all aids for monitoring we have ~ get this ~ GUIDANCE COUNSELORS WORKING THREE LUNCH PERIODS AS MONITORS!!!! Seriously wrong mind-frame IN MY NOT SO HUMBLE OPINION. This week they'be gone to assigned seats to split up the "loud ones" HELLO ~ it's 8th grade lunch!

     
  • At Fri Feb 08, 07:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ohhh, you have touched a nerve with me also. Our teachers give "Silent Lunch" as discipline, but they generally give it to the entire class instead of the ones causing the problems. I have complained of this several times to anyone that will listen. Not that my children are perfect, but mine have NEVER been in trouble at school, never had to be told to be quiet, never qotten in trouble for forgetting homework, never gotten in trouble for anything, yet I can't count the times my oldest has had to endure Silent Lunch because of a few problem children that the teachers are too afraid to discipline or too lazy to discipline. I have gone to the principal, written to the board, had meetings with the teachers to tell them that if it is my child that is causing the class to have silent lunch, then I can take care of it so that it will never happen again, but they all assure me it wasn't my child. "So then why don't you take care of the problem, because after a year of Silent Lunch, this discipline is apparently not working". I am all for positive reinforcement, but the teachers aren't! When I sub, I tell the students that I do not give group silent lunch. I will only punish the ones I know are causing a problem, and surprise, surprise, it usually takes care of the problem. As long as the trouble makers know they will not be singled out, then they don't care who all they take down with them, but if they know they will be singled out, generally, they will behave. Parents have to hold teachers accountable because our administration doesn't! JC

     
  • At Fri Feb 08, 08:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I too am a school teacher. I see both sides of the story. Trust me, I HATE that the kids are being yelled at. I don't eat in silence and I can't expect children younger than me to eat in silence. A big part of the problem is scheduling...too many kids eating at the same time. There is no way to solve the schedule problem. The cafeteria is usually close to classrooms and that is a problem for the noise factor. The aides that do lunch room duty, typically do not get training like teachers do on how to interact with children. I promise you that the teachers and administration would like things to change as well, but they are limited to what they are able to do. Someone above this post said that the kids eat instead of talk. I've seen that happen MANY times. The kid talks and doesn't eat. Then, it is time to go back to class and parents accuse the school of not letting their child eat. When in reality, the child had 30 minutes to eat and just didn't because he/she was too busy playing and talking. However, this is not a good reason to yell. I agree that something needs to be done, but I don't know the answer. This has been a problem for 25 years or more.

     
  • At Fri Feb 08, 08:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think kids should eat in silence. However, lunch is not the ONLY time they get to socialize. Recess is a time for socialization as well. I know that I'm not all teachers, but my students have times when they can talk during class. My students are not robots and are not expected to sit in silence all day. We have a good time and learn at the same time. Sadly, I realize not all classrooms are this way.

     
  • At Fri Feb 08, 09:19:00 AM, Blogger elizabeth said…

    I left you a comment on my last post!

    Matthew's teacher and I always comment about the deathly silence the kids are subjected to on a daily basis in the cafeteria. Matthew got his name tag pulled in lunch after saying , "Ow!" when a child poked him during a silent period!

    Things have gotten better now that classes are rewarded for talking quietly.

     
  • At Mon Mar 03, 03:00:00 PM, Blogger ~ Stephanie. said…

    one word: Reeeediculous. Next they will start muzzling the babies in the hospital nurseries.

     
  • At Mon Feb 11, 06:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Recess? What's that? In my day we had 3 recesses AND Gym! If you finished your lunch early then you got to go outside and play. Now they make you sit in silence, in assigned seats, and you only get to talk if you finish ALL your food!

     

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