Waste Not, Want Not
Today I was the music teacher at Robeson Elementary in Champaign. If I were to ever take my adventures in substituting and attempt to self-publish them in a mass-market format, I think I would use the working title Today I Was… with the subtitle The Adventures of a Substitute Teacher. Just in case you were ever wondering. This has caused me to ponder a question: what are some quality professional books about substitute teaching or for substitute teachers? There seems to be a number available for purchase, but I have no idea whether or not they are worth buying and/or reading. If you happen to know of any you’d recommend, I’d be glad to hear about them!
Anyway, my day went pretty well. There was a student teacher with my class who was super well prepared for teaching today. She took the lead in the lessons for each class, and, until she told me at the end of the day, I would have been certain she had been taking the lead in every class for a couple of weeks. In fact, today was her first day doing so, and she was incredibly worried about it. There was no need to be, of course, and I let her know. This was even more impressive when one considers that the 2nd grade class we had today was the class that holds the poor reputation as being the worst class I have taught this year. But even they were not totally unmanageable over the course of the 40 minutes or so they were with us.
There was one part of the day that did disappoint me, though, but it had nothing to do with teaching. It was during the 15-minutes of lunch duty we had supervising the 5th graders. The vast majority of the boys and girls were eating the lunch provided by the school. There are quite a few of these students who qualify for free lunches, but whether the district pays for it or the students’ parents do, someone has had to pay for all of the food that is served to them.
Which is probably why I was so annoyed to see so many students not eating. If I were to guess, I would say that there was close to 10 lbs of food not being eaten during this lunch period. The food services staff confirmed that this is fairly typical, and it is true for all the grade levels. As this is a K-5 building, that means that there is about 50-60 lbs of food wasted each day. Even if it is just 50 lbs, that is 250 lbs of wasted food a week, which adds us to 9,000 lbs of wasted food each school year. It is quite possible that my estimates are way off, and that there isn’t such a gross amount of wasted food each year, but I worry when I continue to do the math. There are 11 grade schools in the Champaign district, and I have a feeling that there is about the same amount of waste in each building. 99,000 lbs of food that goes in the trash each year.
The boys and girls in the area have not learned the wonderful maxim of old: waste not, want not. Another great maxim that applies is use it up, wear it out, make it do, or make without. Instead, though, we have young people who don’t seem to appreciate what they have. I think I’ll make an effort to point out provident living concepts when the opportunity arises. I may not have a full-time job teaching, and I may not be with these students all the time, but I can try to make a positive impact wherever I am upon whomever I can.
Update: Thanks to my oldest brother, Tom, I’ve been made aware of this story out of Chicago about kids throwing away food because it is unpalatable. I don’t think that this is the case in Champaign, but it does bring up an important issue about whether or not food should simply be nutritious, and how the quality of taste/texture/etc. impacts a student’s decision to eat all of (or even part of) his or her school-provided lunch.