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Crazy in the cafeteria



The parents of my kindergarteners have complained to me that their children are afraid to sit in the cafeteria. One parent told me that the staff yells at them. Yesterday I strolled into the cafeteria before they were excused and was very shocked to see approximately ten students lined up with their face against the wall for a "time out." One of the workers was screaming at them to face the wall and turned around. He yelled at one little "I don't want to see your face! Turn around!" Apparently, these students were talking to much. It looked like an experience one might have at boot camp. One of the kids facing the wall was my student. He is new to school, and is having a hard time staying in his seat. He constantly wants to get up and craves adult attention. It was horrible. It took me a long time to get him comfortable in my classroom. Today he was crying and throwing a tantrum. He didn't want to go to school. I had several other children who were dreading going to lunch. Today I sat with them during lunch. Well, I can understand their frustration (but I don't really approve of their methods). The lunch room is very noisy (with 120 kindergarteners and first graders). When it was time for the kids to line up to go to recess, they tossed their trash into the dumpster (some of the missing) and rushed to the door. They were pushing, running around, playing. It was chaos. The first grade students were causing most of the chaos. We currently have two first grade teachers that are out on sick leave . . . which means that out of three first grade classes only one has a teacher. The other two have substitutes, and unfortunately they have had many different substitutes. This lack of consistency can explain a lot of their behavior. I talked to one of the staff in the cafeteria. She does not like all the yelling, but she is clearly overwhelmed by the situation. They try releasing one table at time, but the kids are out of control. Any suggestions?


Senior Member
Talk to Principal

It sounds like their routine has changed with having substitutes, and the lunchroom monitors are overwhelmed with the noise and amount of students. I think you should talk to your principal. It's a problem if students are afraid to go to lunch. Involve your principal and see if he/she can come up with a plan. The lunchroom can be loud and overwhelming (bless those who work in there everyday!), but the kids shouldn't be standing with their faces to the wall. That does sound like "boot camp" punishment. I would also let the principal know that parents are concerned with how their children feel and are being treated at lunch.


Senior Member

I agree that this is a problem for administration. They will be concerned when you tell them that parents are calling you about the cafeteria situation. There needs to be a stricter presence in the cafeteria.

Ima Teacher

Senior Member
At the beginning of the year--before the first lunch period ever begins--EVERY class is taken to the lunchroom for a practice of the routines. If they forget during the year, they practice again.

They practice everything. . .

--walking to the cafeteria.
--entering the cafeteria.
--standing in line.
--entering the serving area.
--getting your food.
--paying for your food.
--sitting at the tables.
--conversation levels.
--movement during lunch.
--throwing away trash/putting up trays.
--lining up.
--leaving the cafeteria.

Works great!



I like your idea. I am going to suggest it to my principal.

However, an additional concern I have is that one of our lunchroom monitors uses a whistle to apparently control the noise level. My observation has been that it does not work. The children ignore it because they are so used to it being overused.

Any further ideas on how to help.



We use colored cups (red, yellow, green) for each table. Every class knows that the first five minutes is silent and you are eating. Then, the paraprofessional will change the color to yellow if they stayed quiet. Also, we have fifth grade, 1st, and 3rd in the cafeteria at the same time (there is not one grade level in there at a time). The noise level is not bad. We do not want them silent.........this is the only time they really get to talk.