Monday, December 26, 2016

'Minneapolis School Embraces Family-Style Dining'

"What if school lunchtime was more than just a wait in line and a race to find a seat and eat, but instead was more like a traditional family meal – a time when friends gather to enjoy their food, engage in meaningful conversation, build relationships and gain important life skills?"

That's the question posed by the principal of a Minneapolis public elementary school in a blog posted Tuesday on the Agriculture Department website.

The principal explains that her school decided to abandon the typical chaotic and impersonal lunchroom experience and create a family-style dining program.

"We seized the opportunity that lunch can provide students a chance to gain important knowledge, life skills and habits," Ginger Davis Kranz wrote.

"We reflected on what that would look like and decided to eliminate the lunch line, seat children at round tables where food is served family style, give the children meal responsibilities where they help their peers and maintain the environment and bring teachers, staff and volunteers in the dining hall to join students for the 30-minute lunch."

Kranz said family-style dining aims to build an appreciation for food and where it comes from; create "an awareness of self and others"; produce an understanding of healthy eating; provide a calm space for eating, learning and manners; and give students time to eat and socialize in a healthy way.

In other words, all the things children used to learn at the family dining table.

During the meal, school staff  and volunteers monitor portion sizes and "meal pattern requirements," as mandated by the Obama administration. Student help set the table, pass the food, and clean up afterwards to "restore the environment."

Students serves as “table leads” or “hosts,” taking milk or water orders from their tables, then pouring it into cups and serve to their peers.

The principal says since the family dining started last January, "we continue to tweak the process, but overall, it has been well received by students, families and the community. Instead of a chaotic, student management problem, our lunchroom is a welcoming community that enriches students and adults alike."


Sexual harassment in British schools

It’s a problem that is widespread but few parents know about it – the sexual harassment of teen girls in school. Two independent investigations in the past three months came to the same conclusion: a huge number of schoolgirls in Britain are verbally or physically abused during the school day.

In September, a cross-party report from the Women and Equalities Committee announced that more than half of young women aged 13-21 have faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in the past year, and almost a third of 16 to 18-year-old girls say they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school. Many more – nearly three quarters – say they hear “slut” or “slag” used at school on a regular basis.

By Year 7, sexual language is common. A lunchtime supervisor told the government committee that girls “seem resigned to this treatment. When I have spoken to them about it, they say none of the teachers listen. If I challenge the boys, they seem to feel it is acceptable and just ‘banter’.”

Earlier this month, a report from Girlguiding Scotland, which has more than 50,000 members, returned similar statistics.

It is a normal part of development that relationships between teenagers become sexualised, but what is to blame for this increase in harassment? Some cite online porn. Others blame sexting and rap culture. Experts argue that it isn’t only girls who are the victims. Boys feel under pressure – many feel they will be excluded socially if they don’t join in with sexualised behaviour, be it verbal or physical. “There is peer pressure for many boys to be sexually forward, which comes across in this groping behaviour, but the greater pressure is on those who want to speak against that and feel they are not in a position to do so, even though they are in the majority,” said David Brockway of the Great Men Project. “This is partly because, as with all schools, the culture of ‘telling’ is the worse thing you can do, but also because they will automatically be met by the response of, ‘You’re a pussy’, ‘wet’, ‘a girl’, ‘gay’ – all the stereotypically masculine gendered insults.”

At the launch of its report, Girlguiding Scotland called for sex education classes to teach both boys and girls about the importance of consent. The government now agrees, acknowledging that sexual harassment has become “an accepted part of school life”. Plans include introducing topics such as sexting, sexual consent and pornography in class – and making sex education compulsory.

One thing everyone agrees on is that harassment is common.


British Prep schools struggling to fill free places for poorer pupils

Private school heads have admitted that many of their free places for poor children go unfilled because they cannot find eligible families to take them.

Almost half of independent prep schools said that they did not get enough applicants for fully funded bursaries, with one in ten saying they had not offered a free place at all in the past year. The disclosure will raise further questions about whether some private schools are doing enough to justify their charitable status.

Prep schools claimed that poor parents were put off by negative stereotypes of private schools that portrayed them as elitist and quirky, but critics accused them of not trying hard enough to publicise free places.


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