Lunchtime in the classroom with fifteen preschoolers is very busy. Once containers are opened, hot foods are heated, milk straws are inserted into their boxes, and napkins are found, things change. Drastically. Lunch becomes intimate. Not quiet, but a place of comfort where children (and teachers) share their stories. Children talk about their dogs and cats, their grandparents, their sleepovers. They share what is on their mind, and also in their heart. It’s how we become a family– we are a family at school!
Lunchbox notes are a special treat for children. I make sure that I read the note to the child: “Happy first day of school, Ella” or “Have a fun day today at school, Josh.” Last week Savannah had a special lunchbox note:
My goodness– it was a song. And, it was Savannah’s favorite song. I knew this was special, so I started to sing the song to her. She was a bit taken aback, not wanting to be the center of attention. So, I stopped singing and apologized.
Suddenly Allie, who was sitting close by and heard everything, raised her voice in singing the song. All alone. Then other children started to sing along. I joined in as well. Savannah beamed!
These are the moments that matter most. Connecting with children is one thing, but children connecting with each other is another thing. Lunch seems to be where it all happens, the important stuff. Much like sitting around a campfire with friends, it is the perfect environment to establish friendships, trust, confidence, and language skills.
This is how important it is: A study was done to determine if there was a common denominator among the National Merit Scholars. Were they all class presidents? Captains of their sport teams? President of the Drama Club or Literary Magazine? Were they all volunteers in their community? Surely there had to be one thing that they all shared in common.
There was one, and only one: every National Merit Scholar had dinner with their family at least four times a week.
Sounds simple? Not at all! At the dinner table they developed language skills, thinking and reasoning, empathy, humor, patience, compassion… the list is a long one and a good one.
These are life skills, the foundation for learning.
This is what I do in my classroom at lunchtime. I create the “dinner with the family” environment for children. Everyone’s opinion is valued. We are listeners, and we are storytellers. Oh, the stories we tell! Jennie Stories (from my childhood) are beloved. Why? Because through storytelling, children know that their teacher had the same fears and tears. Every day is a Jennie story, from spiders to bats to birthday cakes to the Peanut Man…
I know the difference this makes with the children I teach. What do I tell parents? Have dinner together, talk, listen, tell stories. It makes all the difference in the world.
Reblogged this on Die Erste Eslarner Zeitung – Aus und über Eslarn, sowie die bayerisch-tschechische Region!.
Thank you for reblogging, Michael! Always an honor.
Real dinner time together! M
Reblogged this on Story Twigs the Imagination!.
Thank you, Meg!
Enjoyed it and agree with it so much! Meg
I’m glad you did!
What a wonderful experience for your students, Jennie! I’m sure they look forward to lunch everyday. And, you’re right. Language is dynamic. It happens during meaningful social interactions. Fantastic post! 🙂
Thank you, Tonya. I do look forward to lunch. Today I told the story of The Three Little Pigs, with a few simple props. Captive audience. Language is definitely dynamic!
I’m sure your students loved it! 🙂
They did! 😀
Even though we did often have dinner together when my kids were teens, I wish I could go back and make dinner-time extra special for them every single night. I have a feeling with this latest generation, family dinners are even more rare or at least not dinner without devices. Good for you for showing the kids how fun family dinners can be!
I also wish I could go back and make dinner time special every night. But, I think we both had far more of those dinners than today’s families do. I will always be an advocate for family dinners. My class loves it! Many thanks, Marcia.
That is fascinating that the dinner together ties the success of these people together.
I think so too, Marlene!
Such a lovely post! The weight of words. So often we focus on how words harm and not enough on the power they have to build and strengthen each other.
Oh, what a lovely post. Thank you for sharing. And for caring.
You are welcome. I’m glad you enjoyed it!
Jenni, I just had a thought: may I please send you a copy of my new book, Myrtle the Purple Turtle, when it’s released? If so, please let me know. It will be out in early October. Having read several posts on your blog, I believe you will like it.
Cynthia, that would be so nice! Many thanks. Jennie Fitzkee, P.O. Box 739, Groton, MA 01450
My pleasure, Jennie.
This is so lively, considering may families don’t sit together to eat much anymore!
Thank you, Ritu. It is definitely a lively time. 🙂
I never had a lunchbox, so no notes for me. My Dad worked away a lot too, so family dinners were a rarity. Once I got older, I valued any time around a dinner table, whether with family or friends. You are right to place so much importance on that experience, Jennie.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thanks, Pete. Yes, anytime around the dinner table is a good thing. I don’t remember having a lunchbox, either. Best to you.
We had ‘school dinners’ in a large communal hall. 🙂
That’s wonderful. If schools did that today, it might help those kids who have a hard time socially.
Many schools still have that system here, Jennie. Here’s one example, with a cost of less than $2 a day, or free for those who can’t afford it.
Good to know this, Pete. Thanks!
Very good advice and a very good practice on your part.
Thank you, Dan.
That’s awesome, Jennie. I didn’t know about “dinner with family.” It wasn’t something I had as a kid. How wonderful that you create that in the classroom, because not everyone has it at home. ❤
Thank you, Diana. You’re right, so many children don’t get that, and is is far more than just the food. Did you ever consider the link between your childhood family dinners and your skills at writing and imagination? Interesting! 🙂
This post is so special, Jennie. Lots of children don’t eat meals together with their family anymore due to the modern lifestyle. So wonderful that you help to recreate this special daily event.
Thank you, Robbie! 🙂
My pleasure, Jennie. I can’t see a way to like your responses but please know that I do read them.
What you are doing with these little ones is SO important! Wonderful thank you for sharing it with us.
Thank you so much, Anne.
Excellent post! I have a son who just graduated from Emory University (YAAAAY!!!) and a daughter who is in 6th grade.
We’ve always cooked and eaten together. Lot’s of good conversations happened during those times.
That’s wonderful! I can’t help but think that all your cooking and conversation had an impact– Emory University. Thanks so much!
Ahh! I love everything about this. Family dinnertime is one of the most important times of our day. Both my husband and I had families who cherished and honored the time of family around the dinner table.
Thanks so much. Dinner time is the best! I’m glad you enjoyed this.
Reblogged this on Words To Captivate ~ by John Fioravanti and commented:
I am moved by this classroom story by Jennie Fitzkee about sharing and creating a ‘family in the classroom’ – please, read on…
Thank you, John!
You’re welcome, Jennie!
Wonderful post, Jennie! It’s a bit different here in Germany because there’s normally no main lunch time but only several small breaks allowing to quickly eat a sandwich before it’s back to classes.
Wonderful! Super extra special times with note in lunchboxes!
Your teaching while eating is sweet, singing Savannah, You are my sunshine. . .🌞☀
I liked snack time while I was teaching, Jennie! Milk and graham crackers plus sharing. The children were given one day a week, rotating so they had time to bring something from home. They stood up at the table to show something. We put stars by their names to make sure this “public speaking” practice occurred (readiness experience for book reports, etc). No toy or book by Thursday? No problem! Go, raid the book shelf “here” at preschool. Or tell us a story. . .
I love your snack story! So glad you enjoyed this, Robin. 😊
I love how you mention your student’s name in recognition, and the lunch time gathering is such an important fundamental to sharing and communication. Well done again Jennie! :)x
It is busy, sometimes chaotic, and absolutely one of the best parts of the day. Mentioning students’ names is huge. Are you ready for this? Sometimes I forget the little things I have shared with children, but they don’t forget. Today a child had Crunchy Cheetos in her lunch, and some for me. She told her Mother that Jennie likes them, too. Thanks, Debby!
Aw, that is so sweet. Goes to show you how appreciated you are! ❤
That’s so nice, Debby. 😊
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Thank you for sharing this, Susan!
What a wonderfully nurturing place your classroom must be.
Thanks so much, Dayne!
Reblogged this on The Writers Desk.
Thank you, Patricia!
Though certainly not an educator or teacher, one generally finds children to be more alert, sensitive, and perhaps intuitively more intelligent, and even better intellectually curious than most adults of my generation.
You are exactly right!
As for the adults of my generation, allow me to say I blame MTV.
I do believe that even in today’s busy world something as basic as sitting around a dinner table makes the difference. I cannot even think of anyone in the younger generation that does this.
You are so right. Families don’t do this. If only they knew how important this is. Well, I can start with my preschool families and teach them. It grows from there.
Reblogged this on bridgesburning and commented:
Such a simple thing. I would love to hear from people who actually sit together for even one meal in a day. Alas I cannot personally think of one.
Thank you for reblogging!
You’re welcome. Happy to.
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Growing up we always had all meals together. With my children we probably had at least 4 meals together a week if not more. They both were National Merit Scholars!
Even with bad cooking🙂
Wonderful! And did you realize the connection? Thanks so much. 🙂
No. It was a habit formed in childhood which we still observe when with family.
I eat alone now and sometimes I sit at the table. 😉
I’m so glad!
And, I also sit at the table, even when eating alone. 🙂
When our grandson would visit us each summer, he loved that we sat together at a table and had our evening meal and chatted about our day. I guess they don´t do that at his house.
It is such a good thing on so many levels. I’m glad he had that with you. 🙂
I agree. You can tell which families share meals together at a table. There is a thread running through that joins them. Over time it creates a tapestry of family life and memories.
Yes it does, indeed. Thank you! 🙂
Pingback: The Lunchbox Note and Storytelling: Lifetime Lessons from Jennie Fitzkee | Sue Vincent's Daily Echo
Thank you, Sue!
That is the healthiest thing any teacher could teach a child emotionally! Bravo
Thank you! I couldn’t agree more. 🙂
Beautiful, we are all seeking connection, aren’t we? And who doesn’t love connecting over food! Thank you for sharing.