Lessons From the Lunchroom

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Lessons From the Lunchroom

September 27, 2008 - 01:57

We continue to receive numerous reports from individuals and parents on the negative substandard climate children are subjected to in the Trinity School cafeteria. Some of these reports include screaming, yelling and berating on the part of adults directed toward our children. If this is true, it’s probably not such a bad thing for the fourth and fifth graders to have only 15 minutes to stand in line, purchase and eat their meals.

The fact is that our children are being socialized to behave like animals. Some will argue that this is not true or simply an exaggeration. It is not difficult to conclude that there is a direct connection between how adults treat our children and how the children behave while they develop their self-image. If you treat them with dignity and respect, they will behave in a dignified and respectful manner. The opposite is also true.

There are other more basic needs not being met. Despite what the Health and Wellness committee for the City School District of New Rochelle will attempt to lead us to believe, parental instincts and general common sense tells us that fifteen minutes is totally inadequate to meet healthy nutritional objectives and the necessary social training that is imperative for the development of good citizens and a civil society. The latter is one of the main reasons why we send our children to schools, to develop their social skills. What kind of social skills are they developing under these conditions? Then the district wonders why parents get upset. Who in their right mind wants their nine and ten year old children to only have fifteen minutes for lunch in such a terrible climate? This is compounded by yelling adults. The reason why every other child in the district has more time is simple, because it just makes sense. It is very easy for district employees to say that it is OK. Our response to that is quite simple, is it good for your own children? It district employees saw the children as their own, we would not be having this problem. The double standard is clear.

This is yet another example of why the City School District of New Rochelle has been ineffective in engaging so many parents. There is an unwillingness to meet parents where they are. District employees ignore parents when you do not agree and do not want to hear what they have to say. As the district continues to hire people (e.g. School Community Facilitator) to “fix” problems, it does not realize that their approach is fundamentally flawed. Parents send good children to the schools and the system ruins them in an endless cycle of mediocrity, neglect, poor decision-making and just plain irresponsible and unconscionable patterns of behavior. Time after time, we have heard educators complain about parents who are not involved, children who are failing and parents who do not care. What we have also observed and experienced is the systematic failure of educators to communicate with parents in a timely, respectful, dignified and professional manner. They constantly blame parents and their children. Rarely do some educators look at themselves as the root or even part of the problem. As a result, we send our children to schools that undermine and fail to support the hard work that many parents put into raising good and productive citizens.

There are other examples of similar irresponsible practices we have heard time after time from parents. For example, if a child receives a failing grade the parent is not informed in a timely fashion. If the child misbehaves, the parent is not informed. Many times this pattern in perpetuated until the problem has spun out of control. It is only at this time that the parent is brought in to the picture. In the case of many high school students, it is often way to late when the concern is given any kind of attention. Students are put through the conveyor belt to failure. As they do not have enough credits to move to the next grade, they are forced into night school. Children who had a difficult time during the day, do not fair much better at night. This is how we lose children to our schools. This is evident in the poor graduation rates of some of the most needy children in our district (a topic discussed at the last Board of Education Meeting by Mr.Sanchez and Mr. Smith). These problems do not begin in high school, we argue they emerge much earlier in our schools and we fail to see the signs (as a report completed last year by one former Assistant Superintendent clearly demonstrates and we plan to expose at a later time). The theories of only blaming parents are no longer acceptable in any educational paradigm.

The lunch situation at Trinity is a symptom, not the problem. The root of the problem lies much, much deeper than the lunchroom. Furthermore, the problem has much greater implications than a meal here or there.

There is 1 Comment

Over the years, my children have had professional and respectful teachers at Trinity school. The only time my confidence level plummets is when I think about how my children will have to make it through the day at times when they are not with their teacher. It seems like this is when things come unglued. I basically hold my breath and hope that they are able to get by unscathed (both emotionally and physically) in the lunchroom or during recess. I realize the class can’t be with their teachers every minute of the day but I think parents should be able to feel confident in the people selected to take over for our teachers. We can’t expect the children to do the job for the adults. They are children, they are hungry and they have been listening and sitting all morning. Eating and a bit of recess is a well-deserved break that shouldn’t come with constant berating.

For the past couple of weeks, a monitor has been telling my child’s class that if they are unable to sit quietly at their table they are not allowed to get their lunch. The whole table must be quiet, which could take some time. When they are finally quiet, they may go purchase their lunch or if they brought lunch from home they may go to the crates to get it. To me, this sounds like a variation on group punishment. The children who come in quietly, promptly sit down, listen to and follow all instructions are being punished by having their eating time taken away from them every day and being subjected to constant and loud reprimanding. Realizing that the first few weeks of school can be an adjustment period, I thought they may be working it out and decided to give it a couple of days. As of this writing, there have been sixteen full lunch days. The way my child explains it to me, it sounds like each day is an experiment for monitors to see what method will work. After the wait is over, the children with the home-brought meals begin eating while the children who need to purchase their lunch are probably still on line. How much time is really left for them to eat? For this reason, we always brown-bag it.

In the past, when my child’s lunch was at the late time of 1:00 p.m., the time saving strategy of bringing our lunch was what got us through the year. Now, it seems like our creative way to alleviate the length of the hunger pains has been thwarted, since even if you have your lunch and are quiet, you can’t start eating. My reason for sending lunch every day for four years had nothing to do with food preference or money and everything to do with time constraints and stress issues. Actually, one of the very first comments that a fellow parent made to me on the first week of school was, “Oh good, our kids don’t have the late lunch this year.” I guess it doesn’t really matter what time your child has lunch, if every lunch period has its challenges.

Thank you for your consideration.