Another Voice: Don’t blame teachers for wanting the time to teach - The Buffalo News
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Another Voice: Don’t blame teachers for wanting the time to teach

By Lynn M. Diagostino

I am writing in regard to the disagreement between the Buffalo Public School Breakfast in the Classroom program and the Buffalo Teachers Federation. I am a Buffalo teacher and I do serve breakfast in my classroom. We all feel it is important for a child to be well fed in order to concentrate and learn. That is not the problem.

Two years ago, we came into school and found we were to serve breakfast in the room to all children. There was no input from staff at all on how to implement this. We were assured each child would receive a healthy breakfast and it would be in everyone’s best interests to have this program.

Guess what? It is often not a healthy breakfast – breakfast cookies, muffins, whole grain donuts and sugar cereals were offered most mornings. On Thursdays our school offers prepackaged pancakes or waffles with syrup in them. This was a nice, albeit messy, change, but the breakfast was delivered in the same cooler as the cold milk and juice. Often the hot breakfast was too cold to eat.

As far as the reports about yogurt and fruit, we rarely see yogurt, but we do see green bananas and whole grain pop tarts. Doesn’t that teach our children to eat healthy? And Friday breakfast is leftovers – whatever anyone returned all week as unwanted is sent to our rooms as pot luck. Enjoy, children.

It has been reported that teachers are prima donnas who don’t want to clean up after their children. That is hardly the entire problem. The problem is the children who hoard the food for later, often snacking throughout the day. The problem is where to put the milk cartons and cereal bowls with milk still in them. Do we pour the milk into the garbage cans to leak or to smell?

The problem is the child coming to school an hour late. Breakfast has been returned to the cafeteria but we have to track down more food for any child who wants it. We have to stop teaching and get that child a meal.

New York State assessment scores came out last week. Schools are under extreme pressure to perform. Teachers are graded by how well their children perform, yet every day we spent time on breakfast minutia rather than actually teaching. Our school is lucky that our only critters are the occasional ants after crumbs and syrup, but other schools report bigger problems. I don’t want to have a child open a cupboard and see a rat.

Is there a way to solve this problem? Probably. Can the cafeterias be used? Maybe. Everyone agrees a good breakfast is what every child needs. Whatever the solution is, blaming teachers for trying to teach and keep a clean safe environment is just wrong.

Lynn M. Diagostino is a teacher in the Buffalo School Distict.

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