It’s the final countdown. I’ve calculated it’s 45 days until I make my great escape from the classroom. There will be many things I will miss but, as I’m sure many teachers will agree, there seems to be so much more that I will be glad to see the back of.
Number Six – Lunchtime
Lunch hours used to mean lunch hours. I used to just about batter the kids out of the way so I could beat them to the hall and get to the front of the dinner queue. Manners went out of the window if there was a chance I could miss out on cheese flan. I had a school dinner. And didn’t have to pay for it. I would spend time masticating, savouring, digesting before summoning a little person to be my unpaid servant to take my tray away. No marking. No planning. No emailing. Just lunch.
Before I knew it, pot noodles became my friend and pot noodles alone. No more lovingly prepared dinners paid for by school. The government now needed the money to pay the expenses of swindling MPs. So being too tired/lazy to make sandwiches in the morning, anything that could be drowned in boiling water and resurface as something edible five minutes later became my new go-to-lunch. If the summer holidays didn’t come around every year, I’m sure I would have developed a curried noodle tape worm in my long suffering stomach.
The staff room was a sanctuary. Basically, it was child free and we intended to keep it that way. There was nothing more upsetting for a teacher when there was a knock on the door during lunch. There was a problem. Heads went down and silent prayers would begin that it wasn’t somebody in your class.
Everyone else breathed a sigh of relief when it was someone in your class.
“Can it wait till after lunch?”
“Have you told the dinner lady?”
Wrong answer but never mind.
“Would a wet paper towel fix it?”
“Is it something the headteacher should really deal with?”
“Who are they?”
“Exactly! Fine! I’m coming! This has better be good!”
At this point, a teacher wouldn’t know what to expect or which hat to pop on. Nurse. Counsellor. Social worker. UN Diplomat. I’m quite surprised the government has never thought to tax us teachers for all these second/third/fourth/fifth jobs we also do.
But those were the halcyon days. Somewhere along the line, the lunch hour became an extension of the school day. Apart from a quick trip to the loo (furtively avoiding any pupils in case they needed you as Kofi Annan to sort out a domestic over a made up game that had no bloody rules anyway or hiding from the one pupil who liked to engage in long-winded conversations about their plans for the weekend!), lunch was just another lesson but without the pupils. Food was anything that didn’t need any preparation and could be eaten speedily without any mess. Basically I had the choice to get as much work done as possible during lunch so I could maybe leave work in time to be home to feed my own children. Or sit in the staffroom on my own, unenthusiastically stirring my chicken pot noodle containing no actual chicken, contemplating the amount of planning, preparation, marking and administration I would now have to do after school.
So, working through my lunch hour became the norm. And, usually, on arriving home to be greeted with my own feral children squabbling with each other and demanding help with the homework, I sometimes wished I’d chosen to sit with that pot noodle to avoid this ‘quality time’!
So roll on proper lunches, and if they are to be liquid lunches, even better!
Read what’s number five on the list at The Final Countdown Day 46