Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Share a Meal

In a world full of expanding class sizes, endless paperwork, and too much to do with too little time syndrome, getting to know a student often feels like a Herculean task. We have been caught in the rut of quantifying people, aspirations, feelings and opinions that we forget that our purpose is not to toughen kids up but to raise kids who make the world less tough and heartless.

We would all agree with the fact that children learn best when they like their teachers. But how many opportunities are we creating in the classroom to make each student feel that special teacher-student bond?

Cultures across the globe give immense significance to the tradition of eating together. African traditions believe that meal sharing fosters unity and peace in the community. In an Indian context meal sharing has been given such value that even guests become part of the family when food is shared.

Our gadgets may have got us closer to the world but they definitely have pushed us further away from our family. As parents, we need to rethink about how we perceive and value our family meals. Research spanning nearly 5000 teenagers has shown that when children eat with their parents regularly, they are more likely to be emotionally strong and have better mental health. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belongingness. There is also evidence that a family dinner regularly acts as a good vocabulary booster for younger children. Perhaps we need to start by considering  eating together not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to let go of our individual pursuits  and make room for our loved ones.

If meal sharing has been such a valuable resource then why hasn’t it been considered by educators yet? It is this intriguing question that led teachers of Seth M.R. Jaipuria School to further tap on this tradition giving birth to a concept called 'Lunch with Me'.

'Lunch with Me' is an effortless way to build genuine behaviour influencing rapport by providing opportunities on different days of the week for a student and teacher to share a meal together. Eating together helps teachers see students beyond grades and assignments and form a human connect by engaging in heartfelt conversations that express unconditional positive regard for who they truly are. It also helps to connect the less connected - the shy solitary students who in the realm of social awkwardness are not able to express themselves in a crowd. The mere act of showing up for lunch without an agenda is powerful proof that in our classroom every day is a new day- that it isn't just lip service but central to who we are as educators.

We strive to make every moment at the Jaipuria School a teachable moment and we hope ‘Lunch with Me’ will reinforce the student –teacher rapport which is a cornerstone of our ethos. Sharing a meal helps remove inhibitions and the insecurity of being judged or like one student said: "My teacher becomes my friend when we eat together”. I guess as a child what really matters is to have someone who values what you have to say and what better way to do it than over some good food!

Anam Zaidi
Seth M.R. Jaipuria School

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