So, I’m in my home, waking up around 9am. ESPN is on the morning television, along with a bagel with cream cheese and a large cup of coffee. “Round one!” as I gulp down my first cup of coffee. This will be one of the quietist weekday breakfasts I’ve had in a long time.
I start thinking about what my breakfast would look like if I were still working this summer. In the classroom, if a preschool breakfast is quiet, there is something wrong. On one hand, it may mean that the children are still trying to wake up in the morning and they’re not social yet (coffee will fix that later in life.) Or, it may mean the children are plotting something, such as how to gain access to the glitter in the classroom cabinet.
My classroom mealtimes are hardly ever quiet. I encourage my students to talk, share stories, or even listen to mine and make comments. However, arriving at this optimal conversation situation is a challenge. For example, my students will spend an hour outside before coming in for lunch. They’ll be sweating and faces are beat red. But, unlike you and me, they’ll let you know they’re exhausted. It sounds like…
Child 1: “Wahhhhhhhh!”
Child 2: “I’m tiiiirrrrreeeddd!”
Child 3: “I’m hungrrrryyy!”
Child 4: “Aaaaahhhhh!
In a calming voice I say, “Boys and girls, we’re going to eat lunch. Okay? We’re almost there.” Please, we’re almost there!
Most times, my co-teacher and I will just have to wait it out. Not much you can do to stop the screaming until they get food in their stomachs and crash on their cots. However, on some days, we have a secret weapon.
Me: “Boys and girls, guess what? We’re having pizza today!”
Instantly, my entire class will perk up. “Pizza? Really?” The children will become attentive listeners and follow through with all directions. It’s the power of pizza. Of course, however, as my great mentor – Spiderman – once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Pizza power not only turn the children into good listeners, but they also become competitive. Very competitive.
Child: “I want the big one! Teacher, the big one. No teacher, that one.”
Me: “Don’t touch it… No. Ugh. It’s yours.”
When I’m done passing out the first round of pizzas, I’m responsible for the next task: overeating lookout. “Little bites! Little bites! That’s too much pizza in your mouth.” Or, I’ll be barking “Chew! Chew! Chew!” because the child has obviously crammed too much pizza in their mouth. I’m like a lifeguard on patrol for any child potentially drowning in a sea of cheesy goodness. When those five minutes end, toward the end of the meal, my final responsibility arrives.
Child: “Teacher, I want more!”
Okay… 4 children… 1, 2, 3 … 3 pizzas left. Ummmm…. okay, mucho problemo.
Now, if I want to make three children mad and make nap time impossible for myself, I will say “No more guys. There is not enough.” Presto!
Or – the better option – I do math. “Okay boys and girls. This is what I’m going to do. I’ll take these two and cut them in half. That will make four.” I pass out all four slices and then sit back.
Child: “Teacher. What about that one?” pointing to the last pizza on the platter.
Me: “That one is mine.”
Me: “Yeh, that’ mine.” I grab it and take a big bite. “Ummm, this is good.”
See? Simple. If you didn’t know, in many programs, preschool teacher’s eat with the children during mealtimes. Teacher’s will model for the children proper table etiquette, such as how to eat with utensils or trying new foods. In this situation, I’ll model how to take small bites of pizza (and not choke.) If there is “icky” looking food on the table, I’ll encourage the children to try the food by trying the food myself. We’ll bring in more mouth by taking a tally of who did or did not like the food. Yep, good times…
…yeh, good times. Hope the kiddos are enjoying their summer. Well, back to my bagel and ESPN…. What! Pacers lost! Boo!