Lunchtimes as a teacher are either a blessing or a curse. How you feel about them can depend on 101 things and only a few of them are directly under your control. Are you on duty? Do you have 60 books to mark from the morning’s maths and literacy lessons? Did you have time to time to prepare for this afternoon’s practical science lesson this last night? Is it a wet day? Is it a full moon?
That lunchtime can make or break you as a teacher as it is vital time that is yours and that you need to do your job well. That science practical is not going to set itself up! So when one of your class misbehaves (again) and is sent in to see you (again) it is the last thing that you want or need- you can’t get the filtering of dirty water experiment set up if you have to sort Little Johnny out (again)! What was to have been an outstanding practical lesson is now rushed, scrappy and incomplete at best and worksheets at worst. Teachers need time in the day to get everything done the need to get away from their class even for a bit to finish one task before starting the next. They also need to eat- hangry teachers are not pleasant!
Those lunchtime behaviours will also have a direct impact on your class that afternoon. We all know that children learn best if they are calm, happy, relaxed and interested. They’re not going to learn if they are still thinking about that incident at lunchtime. It will still be on their mind and they will not be able to concentrate or, they will still be full of adrenaline and need time to physically recover from the break. Did you know that it takes two seconds for adrenaline to course around your body in response to an incident but over 90 minutes for it to fully leave your blood stream? No one is going to learn if we still have to deal with the behaviours created by a poor lunchtime.
OFSTED produced a report in 2014 saying that the average pupil loses 38 days of learning a year due to low-level disruption to the classroom. This is an average of 1 hour a day. The report mentions low level disruption, the chair swinging, shouting out, talking over each other, lack of materials ready for the lesson. Imagine what we lose on top of this to sorting out the more major playground fights and even bullying every single day!
What if you’re a headteacher? Lunchtime behaviour management often lands at your door – literally! Your teachers need that time out so you are often the one that gets called upon to deal with the niggles, the arguments and injuries. In reality your time is even more precious. You may not have a class to teach that afternoon but you do have a Governor’s budget meeting to prepare for and a County Advisor coming in at 1 o’clock. You can’t get things ready if you are dealing with Little Johnny again (he gets involved a lot!)
What schools need to do is to prevent these problems arising in the first place.