Teacher to Parent: Stop using food to entice students to behave in class | Opinion

It feels like my son eats in school all day. He gets gummies for good behavior in one class and lollipops for the same reason in another. One teacher gives out candy on test days, and two let kids bring in their own snacks. Is this good policy?

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional brief party to celebrate a special occasion, but teachers who regularly utilize food in their classrooms — let’s call them food-ucators — are making a mistake. What’s wrong with it? Let me count the ways.

1. How many times a day do kids need to eat, exactly? Aren’t breakfast, lunch, and dinner enough? Since when is a mid-morning snack necessary to drag oneself through three hours of mostly sitting? And even if they are feeling peckish, what’s wrong with teaching them to wait? And we wonder why there’s childhood obesity.

2. Kids already struggle to focus on the one thing you want them to focus on. How do you expect them to focus on long division with a bunch of Goldfish staring at them? Let kids be distracted at lunch, not during a lesson.

3. Most of the food is junk. I’ve never seen a teacher pass out lettuce wraps to kids who got zero detentions this week. I’m an admitted junk-food-aholic, so if I can recognize the error in this, anyone can.

4. Food-ucation breeds resentment towards teachers who don’t allow it. If I’m the only teacher on my hall who doesn’t let kids eat in my room, students see me as the warlock, and that doesn’t help anybody.

5. Many teachers use food to tranquilize their students. While students are in the physical act of eating, their mouths are too full and their brains too engaged (on food, not learning) to bounce around. (Note: once the Tootsie Pops are gone, see below.)

6. Food unnecessarily amps kids up. Even food-ucators will tell you that on food days kids are more apt to push, act impulsively, and generally run amok. When the food is filled with sugar, things get even worse.

7. Many teachers use food as a means of discipline. Because they lack competent classroom management skills or their administration fails to support them in discipline or both, they use food to bribe kids into behaving. I’m sympathetic with their plight, but not with the solution. Think long-term. You can’t throw kids into the real world expecting privileges for not ruining everyone’s day. In real life, nobody gives you an oat bag for not acting like a horse’s rear end.

7.5. The teachers who try to use food for discipline usually end up feeding all the kids anyway. It’s a hard-hearted person who will make one student watch while his classmates eat pizza. Every time you give in, however, you blow up your whole disciplinary system (such that it is).

8. School isn’t a movie theater. We shouldn’t groom kids to sit and eat while participating in a lesson. A lesson is for their edification, not their entertainment.

9. Food lures bugs. Roaches, ants, and fruit flies top the list. Wherever kids eat, they drop bits that end up in cracks and under furniture. That’s how you attract an infestation. Too bad there’s not a big room somewhere in the school where kids are supposed to eat. Oh, wait.

10. A lot of kids are deadly allergic to the ingredients that are in junk food. What no kids are allergic to (biologically, anyway) is learning, thinking, working, and having fun. So let’s ditch the junk and focus on the others.

Teachers, parents, and principals should work together to devise better solutions to the problems that we’re trying to crudely solve with food. Then, when we do break out pizza and cupcakes for a special celebration, kids will know they’re actually celebrating something special.

They may even come to associate learning, behaving, and earning their teachers’ approval with something more meaningful than a bloated stomach.

Food for thought.

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