Kids raise their hands all the time in my classroom and say that they're hungry, but I have nothing to give them. (Kindergarten teacher from Texas)
This is an exact quote from my daughter's public school kindergarten teacher, from a conversation that we had this morning.
More on this subject below the fold...
This elementary school is the largest in the district, and due to the logistics of scheduling cafeteria time for kindergarten through sixth grade classes, the kindergarten class eats lunch at 10:45. The school lets out between 2:45 and 3. They may have gym on some days. During the four hours from 11 to 3 these five-year-old kids have lots of tasks requiring physical exertion, dexterity and concentration, including recess, and sometimes gym. The teacher explained that there is no time set aside in the school schedule for afternoon snacks, so there are no afternoon snacks. My first daughter's teacher also told me there was no time set aside for snacks, but she told all the parents to send snacks, and allowed her children to eat them as they were trying to do their math lessons. That's America for you -- always on the go. Teaching our children to bolt their food while getting MORE IMPORTANT things done. I wonder why they haven't started having lessons in the cafeteria while the kids are wasting precious education time doing nothing worthwhile, just eating lunch.
On "Meet the Teacher night" I asked about snacks because I remembered the early lunch time and snack periods from my first daughter's elementary days. The teacher said if you send a snack with your child, she can have it. I did send a snack with my child, and my child said she kept raising her hand, but the teacher kept ignoring her. When I spoke to the teacher, she said she'd forgotten about our discussion, and that "...kids raise their hands all the time in my classroom and say that they're hungry, but I have nothing to give them." That statement really struck a chord with me.
Speaking of the cafeteria, I met my daughter for lunch a few days ago, to take her some medicine, because she was at school trying to learn while her head ached and she had a sore throat. The school wouldn't give her ibuprofen without a note from the doctor, and the doctor wouldn't give standing orders for the school, so I had to leave work to drive over to give it to her. (I finally got a nurse practictioner to sign the standing orders. Hurray!!) My daughter had a tray of pretty tasty food, and a muffin that she had bought extra. Across the table from her was a little boy whom I sat beside. He had a slip from the cafeteria saying he had only $.25 remaining on his account and said they took his tray away and gave him the sandwich. He was eating his sandwich, lunchmeat and cheese, and was watching my daughter eat her bounty. I'd have suggested that she share some of her food, but that's against the rules. I thought of buying him a lunch, but lunch period was almost over. He finished his sandwich and said "I'm so hungry!!!". I said, "why don't you ask if you can have another sandwich". He said, "I don't think they do that here". I said, "Make sure your parents get that note". He said, "I already told them. They don't have any money."
Kindergartners, and even third graders, won't challenge authority. Often, they don't even speak up when they are in need. If they timidly try to tell the teacher they are HUNGRY, and are ignored, then they will sit there and be hungry all day. What else are they supposed to do? Teachers will go get something from the snack machine if they're hungry. Schoolkids are dependent on the teacher for the most basic needs to get permission to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water or get a snack. They don't get to use the snack machine.
On test day last year, the teacher asked all the parents to make sure their kids got protein for breakfast that day. I guess it's important to make sure the kids get protein on the day they are performing their tricks to get the schools a good rating on the standardized tests. It seems a little short-sighted, though, not to worry about all those other days when they are learning that test material. If you don't feed the kids when they're supposed to be learning the material on the test, then how well will they do on the test, even if they eat a good breakfast that day?
It's none of my business, I guess, but I wonder how many little five year old kids are getting hypoglycemia during the end of the day, and feeling sleepy, sad, irritable or unable to concentrate for lack of food. I wonder if the effects of hunger or low blood sugar actually get some of them in trouble. I wonder how many bottomless pits of third grade boys are eating two slices of bread, a slice of lunchmeat and a slice of cheese, and going back to class still hungry. I wonder if children at being medicated for attention disorders when less sugar and caffeine, timely meals and snacks or an energetic run on the playground might help the problem.
Before we pin our hopes on fancy solutions like standardized tests to solve our education problems, we might want to look at making sure our kids have a healthy regimen of regularly scheduled nutritious meals and snacks and exercise. We might also consider that the poorest kids, who are at greatest risk of performing poorly on standardized tests, are the ones who are eating that skinny little sandwich and going back to class hungry. And, maybe, the humiliation of being branded with the Scarlet Letter at lunch, the dreaded SANDWICH, might also interfere with their concentration a bit. Maybe not sending kids to class hungry, and not humiliating the poorest kids for being poor, might help to improve our educational outcomes. After all, it is the PARENTS who failed to pay the lunchroom bill, not the kids.