I always used to eat my lunch in my classroom.
It was my way of saving my sanity and having just a few moments to myself away from children and staff. I wasn’t alone in doing this. Quite a few of my colleagues were sat munching and marking in their own little worlds just as I was.
But then it got noticed by the Head and I was worried that people thought I was being unsociable. I wasn’t. It’s just that in a hectic school environment, you grab ‘me time’ when you can.
I then realised that eating alone wasn’t actually doing me any good because I was spending nearly my whole day in class. I was worried that I was getting blinkered. I certainly didn’t have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) but I did think the staffroom was somewhere I needed to make more of an effort to get to.
I decided to mix things up a bit. I’d eat by myself one day a week, eat with the children two days a week and then eat in the staffroom for a couple of days a week.
This really refreshed my thinking and I wasn’t prepared for that. For starters, many of my colleagues said “Don’t eat with the kids, you’ll be shattered!”
True, enough I needed time away from them and they needed time away from me but a couple of days a week wouldn’t hurt. And it didn’t.
My relationships with pupils changed for the better and I don’t just mean my own class. I sat with all Year groups where possible and it was a great way of building relationships and finding out things about the children I didn’t know. It was interesting spending a few minutes eating and chatting informally together and my behaviour management improved too – children respected me more for spending time with them. A few of my colleagues realised this and started to do the same.
And then the staffroom. The most underused room in the school because everyone was ‘busy’ but also a place of high drama and emotion. This was the place people came to let off steam, download and have a mental breakdown in. Sometimes it felt toxic, sometimes the complete opposite and that’s because it was a room in chaos and had no real identity. It needed someone to take charge of it and say what and what shouldn’t happen in there.
We had a new Head who did just that. He made it a more welcoming space, got rid of the old furniture and had it redecorated. With some clever feng shui and a new lick of paint, this was a place staff wanted to be in. Not even staff meetings were allowed to be held in the staffroom – they had to be held in a classroom or the assembly hall.
The staffroom became a place to socialise in rather than ‘moan’ in. No one had a special chair or ‘spot’ and the shelves were emptied of ‘teachery’ CPD books and placed in the library instead. Staff became more supportive of each other because they ate together and barriers were broken down.
The staffroom is more of an eating and drinking room now and that’s proven to be a good thing. Breaking bread together really does forge bonds. But just once a week, permit yourself some ‘me time’ and eat by yourself – just don’t do it in your classroom.
When we eat together, we learn together.