Over the years, organisation of lunch has had varying levels of importance for me. I’ve gone from no lunch to leftovers ,from hearty and healthy salads to piles of carbs from Tesco, even sausage in batter and chips from the local chippy. Of course, this all depended entirely on a). my financial situation and b). what phase of a diet I was currently going through. All of this changed when I was pregnant with my second child. No longer able to stay up late enough/get up early enough to prepare the healthy food I ought to be having, nor energetic enough to waddle over the road to Tesco, I made an amazing discovery: the school dinner. Prior to my enforced laziness, my experience of school hot dinners had been limited to Christmas times only. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!
Admittedly, the meals might not have been quite as flavoursome as those I would cook at home, and “sweetcorn with everything” isn’t really my mantra for home cooking, but they weren’t bad at all. Those cabbagey smells that often seemed to waft down the corridors really were misleading – cabbage never even featured on the menu! I would regularly sign myself up for a dinner, sneak into the hall, jump to the front of the queue (tut, tut) and run away to the safety of the staff room. The dinner hall has always struck me as a noisy, slightly chaotic place: not somewhere I would go unless I had to. So imagine my dilemma when the new head arrived: he introduced the Duty Lunch. A free lunch for any teacher who chose to eat in the hall with the children. Well, previously, MVNTH (My Very Nearly Teacher Husband, for those of you who are new to this blog. He’s new to Twitter as well as teaching- follow him and make his day!) would often talk about having his lunch with the children. “Sucker!” I would think. Giving up his lunchtime, sitting amid the chaos and the noise and having to sort out squabbles and cut up lunches while his dinner went cold. Free midday supervision – no thank you!
Anyway, eventually, financial sense overtook my desire to eat in the relative calm of the staffroom (although admittedly, sometimes there is very little to distinguish between the children in the hall and the adults in the staffroom!), and I signed myself up for a duty lunch. To be fair to the children, it was a revelation. I queued up with them, and we all chatted about what we were having and who had made the best choice, when was best to come in to get seconds and which were the puddings to look out for. We sat together at the tables (their bottoms were far more suited to the seats though, it has to be said!) and talked about the meals they eat at home. I got the lowdown on who said what to whom in the playground, got the year 6 gossip and was entertained by some of the infants. I was pleasantly surprised. The hall is a noisy and chaotic place, but on the whole, it’s good noise and good chaos. The children were eating sensibly (although cutlery skills leave a lot to be desired – I’m working on those with them!) and almost everyone had impeccable manners. The children enjoy having their teachers around – there is an inevitable clamour to sit next to an adult (unless you are a cool year 6, when it’s your worst nightmare. Then you can almost guarantee a teacher will come and sit next to you, just to wind you up). I’ve met children who I would never have come into contact with this year and have been able to keep up with those who I taught briefly last year. I’ve been accosted by year 2s in the corridor who I sat next to once, who usually test me to see if I can remember their names. Those children who need keeping an eye on get a little reminder that they are being watched, and it’s often enough to keep them on track until the end of lunchtime. It’s a pleasant way to spend a few minutes of my lunch hour. Not every day, let’s not overdo things, but once or twice a week, it’s a lovely way to get to know the children better. Yes, I may have to cut up the odd jacket potato and pour a drink or two, but it’s a very small price to pay. Apparently, there very nearly is such a thing as a free lunch after all.