Are you a bad teacher if you don’t want to eat lunch with your pupils?
Some schools expect teachers to eat with students at lunch but what if the teachers just need a break?
A full school day consists of 5 one hour periods at the school that I teach in. These days I’m part time but half of my timetable has 5 period days. For the first time in many years I also have a tutor group. I enjoy interacting with my students but I also like my lunch breaks and break times because these provide a calm oasis so that I can recharge, reflect and be ready for what comes next.
Some teachers use this time to go to the staff room and connect with colleagues.
Some use it to have a bit of quiet time in their classrooms or off site.
Some may choose to have lunch in the canteen with students.
Either way, all of the above are a choice.
I’ve visited and read about schools were it has been implied that teaching staff are expected to sit with children in the canteen to eat their lunch. Generally this is linked to maintaining good behaviour and sometimes it has a more social engineering function of providing a calmer and more ordered model of meal times than the pupils are perceived to experience at home. The Headteachers at such schools are generally proud of this approach and how it fosters a sense of family, community or similar. On the face of it there isn’t much to object to.
This is not a new thing and I’ve not given it a great deal of thought, apart from “I’m not sure I’d like that” but recently I’ve reflected that a school like that could be placing huge demands on introverted teachers. For a teacher who has had a pre school meeting, then a tutor group, then taught all day, to then demand that they interact with students for much of their lunch may just burn them out. Or maybe they will appear to be fine but then have very little energy when they go home to their own families at the end of the day.
It’s great to interact with pupils outside of formal classroom settings. I’ve had real break through moments with pupils when I’ve taken the time to go and watch a sports game they told me they were in or sat in on band practice or had a random chat with them out on the playground. These things have been my choice though, after I’ve made sure that I’m refreshed and ready to give my best and be totally present.
My current thinking is that creating the conditions for better socialisation and community building is admirable but enforced socialising isn’t. Many teachers pour themselves into their lessons, tutor times and extra curricular activities and so if they choose to have a small part of the day where they don’t interact with students, or indeed other staff, it shouldn’t be frowned upon.