Eating Lunch With Your Students

One of the things that I get asked about the most is classroom management.  And my first “secret” to successful classroom management is RELATIONSHIPS!   I know this is somewhat of a “cliche” in teaching because we all know the importance of building relationships with our students.  But sometimes I wonder if we actually take explicit steps to build those relationships?  And what steps are we taking?  How about eating lunch with your class?  Yep.  I said it.  Willingly sitting in the cafeteria and eating lunch with your kids.  Yep.  True story.  Read on…

A couple of years ago my class was begging me to eat lunch with them.  So one Friday I joined them in the cafeteria.  Yes it was loud and it was hard to focus on my class and not try to be the lunchroom monitor.  But that 30 minutes was so much fun and in just that one lunch together, I learned so much about my kids.   And the kids excitement and happiness lasted the rest of the day!  So for the next few weeks I joined them every Friday for lunch.  And then they started asking me to join them every day.  And guess what?  I did!

Duty Free Lunch

In Tennessee where we live and teach, by law, we have a 30 minute duty free lunch.  And for the first 9 years of my career I ate lunch in my room and with my colleagues.   I think if you choose to do that, that’s 100% fine and OK.  No judgement at all.  We all need downtime.   After seeing my students reaction to me joining them for lunch, I willingly and excitedly gave up my duty free lunch!

What Does The Research Say?

Here is some research that I have read on eating lunch with student!

positive teacher-student relationships enable students to feel safe and secure in their learning environments

When teachers form positive bonds with students, classrooms become supportive spaces in which students can engage in academically and socially productive ways

“Genuine, behavior-influencing rapport is created organically. It comes to you, by student choice, through your warm and friendly personality. Eating lunch with students can speed up this process because it embeds you in their territory, frames you in a new and different light”

It’s an in-the-moment experience, with no past and no future. It’s just you and them and the conversation you share.

One thing that I always share about eating lunch with students is how important meals are to our friendships and families.  Think about it.  What do we to after school or on weekends with friends?  We all sit down together and eat.  And talk.  And share.  So if it works for our friendships and families, why not use that same approach to building our relationships with our students?

What Does Mr. Greg Do?

Every single day of the school year, I choose to eat lunch with my class.  I bring my lunch and sit in the middle of our table.  We talk about whatever the kids bring up.  But we do not talk about school unless someone asks about specials or intervention.  For us, it’s 30 minutes of food, conversations, and bonding.  And lots of laughs and giggles.  This 30 minutes provides so much valuable insight into my students and their lives and what they’re into and what makes them tick.  And guess what?  It also gives them a glimpse into my life because I share with them too.  That’s a key to building relationships:  we have to open up and share too!

eating with your kids

The Results?

So Mr. Greg, what have you noticed about your classroom management now that you eat lunch with your class?  What I have noticed is that our behavior is 100% better.  In three years I have written zero office referrals.  We’ve moved away from clip charts and rules.  Our classroom now runs on procedures, routines and one rule:  BE YOUR BEST.  I firmly believe that one of the most powerful classroom management decisions I’ve made in our class is to eat with my kids everyday.  There has been, without a doubt, a major positive impact on my students, our classroom, our learning and on ME!   And that is happening because of the relationships we build during our lunch together.  Relationships are THE foundation of everything that happens in our classrooms and eating with my students each day helps to build some strong and genuine relationships!  Those relationships mean buy in from the kids.  Buy in means less behavior issues and more engagement.

Hopefully, this post has encouraged you to join your class for lunch at least once a week.  And maybe, just maybe someone will read this and decide to eat lunch with their kids every single day!   Either way, hopefully this post has you considering relationships and how we build those relationships with our students!

And this…

Yes it’s loud.  Yes it’s chaotic.  BUT I have learned to focus on my class and block out the chaos.  It’s tough at first but even my kids now say:  “He is focused on us ya’ll!”

I don’t have to “clean up” any behavior issues from the cafeteria!  Yep.  No tattling.  No one giving me a list of what my class did wrong.   That’s worth a million bucks right there, folks!

And yes they ask you a MILLION questions.  But that’s just one of the countless reasons to love what we do!!!

For more classroom management ideas, check out these resources:

classroom management wireless doorbell


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