An invitation to lunch

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By Donna Kelly, Illustration by Kate Woods

Every teacher looks forward to summer break, however there may be a daily break more precious…lunchtime!  Lunchtime for teachers is what I consider a thirty-five minute “mini vacation.”  It’s our midday opportunity to check in at the main office, call a parent, review e-mails, or maybe eat a power bar on the go.

As sacred as it is, once a month I forgo my “mini vacation” and chose to do the unthinkable.  I host a luncheon in my classroom and dine with my students!  Lunching with the children is an important opportunity for me to connect with them personally and see what is going on in their lives. It is a time to forget about math and reading comprehension and simply enjoy each other’s company and a healthy lunch! A week prior to my special luncheon, I send out formal written invitations:

Master Graham Martin
Your Presence is Requested to Lunch

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
12:00 Noon
Classroom 14

Most of my students come from at-risk, disadvantaged homes where sit down meals with their families are rare.  Frequently they have their breakfast, lunch and snacks during school hours. Knowing these facts, it only seems natural (and fun!) to provide them with a unique dining experience.

On the day of the luncheon I take the time to transform a classroom table with a special tablecloth, individual place cards and centerpieces of fresh flowers from my garden.  With these simple changes, the tone is set for the children to share a wonderful meal with their teacher and friends!  Lunching with the children also allows me to talk about the importance of healthy foods as well as discussions about table manners and what should and shouldn’t be done during meals.

In recent years, there has been a large push for wellness in the public schools which I highly advocate. Across the nation, school lunch programs have been using healthier ingredients,  such as whole foods, and including a daily selection of fruit and vegetables which the children cannot refuse.

One of the goals of lunching with the kids is to talk about the importance of healthy eating.  Some students bring their lunch from home and others chose the daily meal from the school cafeteria.  This lends itself to some interesting conversations about who has the most healthy lunch items.  I also provide something healthy to sample which I hope will encourage the children to expand their taste palates. I try to stick with fruits and vegetables grown locally.

There are often discussions about where the foods grow, how they taste, their texture and what fun recipes could be made with each.  Sometimes the lunch tasting is not well received, but as long as they try the selection, I am happy. I love empowering the children to make smart choices regarding foods that fuel their bodies and brains. My hope is that they will be motivated to enjoy a healthy diet and lifestyle that will carry on into their futures.

These simple lunch gatherings afford me the opportunity to do something around mealtime that makes the children feel special and important. A private meal creates a friendly learning atmosphere between teachers and students that is safe, interesting and fun. Sharing lunch with my students has also reminded me why I do what I do. I believe little things make a difference in a child’s life. If we all did a little thing here and there, like sharing a special lunch, then the message to our children and students would be, “I care about you in every way and enjoy spending time with you!”

Recipe Links:

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Reader Comments:

54321

What an awesome teacher! Kudos to her for going above and beyond by caring for her little ones. They must really feel special. And what a learning opportunity on healthy eating. She has my vote for "teacher of the year"!

By Tanya on September 06, 2012

54321

I really like Donna Kelly's "An Invitation to Lunch". Good teachers are a true blessing! A next door neighbor had an occassional "formal" dinner with her young family. She invited me one time when my husband was out of town. It was delightful! The children were on extra good behavior and so polite. And so cute, to see the littler ones deal with all the formal silver setting and footed wine glasses for their lemonade. She told me about a time when the littlest one fell asleep at the table.

By Bonnie Sweitzer on December 28, 2010

That is just about the sweetest story I have ever read….if we had more teachers like you, taking such a wonderful interest in our children at school, the world would be a much better place!
As the Mom of a third grader, thank you for all you do for children, they are very lucky and blessed to have you!  I hope your kindness is returned to you tenfold!!

By Sherry on November 10, 2010

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love the table paula would look good on my new patio. so glad you are back. I hope to get there to see you in person one day.i will start tomorrow to find the patern form the tablecloth.
Gladys Rainesl in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I just want to say this I don't even know if is the right page all I ever wanted to say to Paula Deen welcome back I have missed you. You are my favorite home down girls keep your head up and hang on and feel the love. P.S. from a woman of color.
in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 13, 2014 at 2:55 pm

I just love love love the table and flowers and am so glad that I can still access all of Paula's recipes, her family life, Bobby's lighter versions and Brandon's beautiful work. Truly thankful to see such beautiful tablescapes. You guys are my heros.
Patricia in Savannah Style: A Spring Table for Two on April 13, 2014 at 9:14 am