silent lunches as the norm

Anytime you can use a Pink Floyd picture in a post, it’s a good thing..

Before you get all hot and bothered, by ‘minority’ I am not referring to a race but rather, those few people who manage to yell loud enough that they get their way over the majority.

I was sitting here Friday night, minding my own business (yes, I can do that) when one of our friends, who’s also a dad at our elementary school, put a post on his Facebook page about a new rule that had been put into place at the school. Apparently, the kids will now spend the first 10 minutes of their lunch in silence so that they can “focus on the task at hand” which is supposed to be eating.

Honestly, I have no way of knowing if my kids do or don’t eat their lunch unless they pack and bring home their leftovers. There have been plenty of times when I’ve cleaned out stainless steel bento box lunch boxes (the kids love those ones) where only one or two bites were taken out of the sandwich. I ask them – why didn’t you eat your lunch? Their response is almost always “I didn’t have time”. You didn’t have time or you were too busy talking? Never an answer to that one, of course. I launch into my “you have to eat your lunch” speech and then we move on. I don’t stress over it too much – if they’re not going to eat, they’re going to go hungry and at some point, it will click that if they don’t want to be hungry, they’ll eat their lunch. Talk with your mouth full – you’re 8 – who cares?! All your friends are doing it, why not you?

But the thought to go to the Principal of our school and demand that the kids eat in silence so that they can focus on their eating never crossed my mind. Ever. Maybe I’m lucky that my kids know that they have a certain amount of time to eat any meal and if they don’t eat at that time, they go hungry. Maybe next time you’ll learn and eat during the time you have. If not – oh well, you’ll continue to go hungry until you get it. Pavlov’s dog, if you will.

There is some group at our school that calls themselves the “parent representatives of the school improvement team” and I cannot wait to find out who these representatives are. From what I can tell at this point, these parents who claim to be representatives, got together and decided that the lunchroom was too noisy and that their kids weren’t eating lunch so of course, the logical thing to do would be to enact a rule that out of the 30 minutes of lunch, the first 10 should be spent in silence to make sure that their the kids will eat. The minority, trying to win force the majority over.

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There was no note to advise anyone that there was a thought of this. Which, of course, means there was no vote to see what anyone else thought about it. All that we received was a letter in the Tuesday pack telling us that it was now a fact.

Every time I turn around, there is another person pushing their personal agenda. Their kid has peanut allergies, so now no one can have peanuts. ( I am sympathetic to kids who have allergies so please don’t throw me on a stake that I’m heartless to kids with allergies.) There was a time during pre-school in Pennsylvania and the “no peanuts” issue reared up. We had to pack lunches for the kids every single day and at this time, we had a child who would ONLY eat peanut butter so this presented quite an issue for us. Luckily, we had a level-headed director who realized that while the needs of this ONE child was important, it could not dictate how the rest of the students were treated. They created a “peanut-free” table and made sure that every child who brought peanut butter did not sit near that table and also washed thoroughly after eating. A great solution that worked for everyone.

If these parents are concerned that their kids aren’t eating, I think the solution should be the same. Have their kids eat at a special table that sits in silence for the first 10 minutes of lunch so they are ensured they eat their lunch. He’ll – go for broke and have them sit in silence for the entire time they have lunch.

We are living under the guise of “no child left behind” where these kids already don’t have fun at school. They get 30 minutes at recess and they get 30 minutes at lunch to wind down. I wonder if these same parents would welcome having their wind-down taken away? Let’s remove Yoga, massages, Country Club lunches and Mommy’s morning out. If you’re doing these things then you can’t possibly be fulfilling your duties of parenting at that time, can you? You’re too distracted to deal with the real task that should be at hand which is being a parent, right?

Our lunchroom is already a not-so-positive environment with the two, lonely soldiers running around trying to open snack packs and juice boxes all while trying to keep the decibel level low. I think a better solution would be to hire another cafeteria worker to help these two out. Or here’s a humble thought… there are teachers that are supposed to work their lunch while they sit in the cafeteria. Why not have them actually “work” the lunch and help these two, underpaid workers out. And an even BETTER idea – why don’t the parents that make up this “school improvement team” step in and do something useful like volunteer during lunch to help solve the “problem” that they think exists?

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I’ve asked several kids – not just mine – what they think about this new rule and they hate it. Not only are they forced into this draconian rule but if they even look like they’re talking, the lunchroom monitors add time to their silence. This, my friends, is what they refer to as “positive reinforcement”. My friend, Jim (who broke the story to me) summed it up perfectly when he said: “This rule brings to mind the cafeteria scene from Oliver Twist combined with the forced conformity from The Wall”.

Brilliant. And sad at the same time.

I eat lunch in that school at least once a month and yes, it’s noisy but they’re in elementary school – what do you expect? I’m so disappointed not just in these parents, but in our Principal who continues to prove to us that he cowers to the parents that he deems “influential”. I guarantee you that our past Principal would have politely deflected the actions of this so-called improvement team.

I’m happy to hear that there are already petitions circulating and I feel confident that this crazy rule will be overturned shortly. I will make my call or email to the Principal on Tuesday to let him know that I do not agree with the rule and that I do not expect my daughter to be held under the said arbitrary ruling. This is her time to unwind before she’s forced back into a time of obedience and silence and being taught to the test. If the “improvement team” wants to go toe-to-toe with me, bring them on. If they want to get crazy with their notions, surely I can get crazy with my notions. At this point, I may as well throw out “freedom of speech” jargon.

I honestly wish that I had the time these people did to fret over how loud the lunchroom is. Sorry, your kid doesn’t eat when they’re supposed to. But if this is how their parents act, perhaps it’s because they chatter so much because it’s the only time they get to talk. I can only imagine what their life is like at home.

So, in summary, I don’t cave to the minority and I don’t like meddling, helicopter parents. Or Principals without a spine.


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