The older I get, the more I realize how much students are affected by the events that happen at lunch. It’s a crazy time of social experimenting. Kids are finding their niche in a circle of friends and trying so hard to hide the fact they’re all insecure to some degree.
As a teacher, I have the chance to step in and do something. I’m not suggesting all teachers should be friends with students, but we can create opportunities to help students survive one of the most volatile times of their life: middle school.
While teaching in Hong Kong, I took the opportunity to invite students to my classroom to watch movies during lunch. We would pick a movie, split it into 25 minute segments, and finish it in 1-2 weeks. The reason I began showing films was because I saw some students eating alone, and I invited them to hang out in a non-threatening environment. It was super successful, and lots of kids have told me how fun lunch became for them.
Unfortunately, this can’t happen at my current school. Lunch is too short, and the systems/structures we have in place are just too rigid to allow for this. However, that means I need to adapt and find new ways to help kids during lunch.
An opportunity slapped me in the face this week. On the way up to lunch, a student simply asked if they could have lunch with me in my classroom. On a whim I decided to put aside the million other things I could’ve done, and committed to talking and hanging out for 20 minutes.
Although short, I think it changed the way understand one another. We not only touched based on school stuff, but we also had a chance to share a little about our families. It was one of those moments that could have positive, rippling effects throughout the rest of the year.
Will I be able to turn my classroom into an engaging cinema for lunch-time-loners? Probably not. But I can do some one-on-one mentoring, and this is an encouraging thought.