You Are What You Eat Unless You Really Aren’t…

I have learned an important lesson over the last few days. Or I guess it’s a lesson that has been reinforced a million times over. Ready for a glimpse into the genius? You are what you eat.

Are you floored?

Well that’s not it…you are what you eat EXCEPT for when a variety of other factors come into play such as family history, income level, blah blah blah, etc., etc. One great illustration of this concept is provided to teachers every time they go on a field trip and are horrified by some of the things families consider to be a “healthy lunch” and then feel sorry for the child who is subjected to heinous amounts of sugar and then told to “only use a museum voice” approximately thirty minutes later once all that glorious high fructose corn syrup has had the time to really set in. You know, get good and hyper. “Now shhhhhhh!”

Imagine now, that the same friend is sent to school on the day of a BIG TEST with a crap breakfast. Or no breakfast. Really, a situation that is mostly out of their control but today they will be JUDGED by their PERFORMANCE. Are they really what they eat then?

When I was little, Big Mama Mimi always made sure I had a serious breakfast before I took any sort of big test. Connecticut Mastery Test? Oatmeal and fruit! SATs? Scrambled eggs and toast! GREs? Bacon and eggs! And you know what? It seemed to work.

Clearly, I had breakfast every other day too, but I do remember a little extra pomp and circumstance went into breakfasts served on the day of a Big Test. Maybe it’s because Big Mama Mimi is also a teacher and knows that no matter how smart I am or how hard I studied, not having breakfast meant that I would probably suck it hardcore. Maybe she wouldn’t have used those words (and is cringing a bit if she is reading this) but I think you get the idea.

Perhaps the Powers That Be should have spoken to her before deciding to fire teachers in connection with low test scores was a super idea (Insert thumbs up here.) (Or was that a middle finger?) Because in my opinion it seems crazy to fire a teacher because a bunch of kids didn’t have a decent breakfast. Or stayed up late to help take care of siblings. Or work at a job. Or the million other factors that could result in a crappy score on a test that is really just a very narrow view of what a child can do and how well a teacher can teach.

Clearly, they forgot to call my mom (a *gasp* real teacher) before making that decision.

One time, on the way to work, I ran into a parent buying his child breakfast at the neighborhood corner store. I myself was grabbing a piece of fruit and much needed coffee. I had a yogurt in my bag to eat in my classroom. (To all the moms out there- drilling your kids about the importance of breakfast works…trust me.) This parent chose to buy their child a two-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I shit you not. Now, I love me some chocolate and peanut butter action as much as the next teacher who regularly hits the secretary’s candy jar at the end of the day, HOWEVER I’m not sure a worse choice for breakfast could have been made.

Regardless, I knew this little friend and I were in for a stellar morning. Thank goodness my job didn’t hang in the balance.

Why am I blabbing on about all this today anyway? (And in what is probably not such a coherent manner…) Because on Monday friends, my pregnant self was told to chug 50 ounces of orange flavored syrup-like sugar/crack and to then sit still and do nothing for an hour. While Mini Mimi evidently joined the circus. And then I was judged.

If you know me personally, you know that I’m pretty concerned with what I eat. Yes, I eat birthday cake at parties and steak with wine at restaurants and sometimes, on those oh-so-special evenings will even treat myself to something as glorious as a garlic mashed potatoes or truffle fries to go with my restaurant steak and wine…because I am a normal person. However, at home, Mr. Mimi and I are fairly anal-retentive concerned about the food we eat. And we do enjoy exercising regularly.

I KNOW! Shut the front door, right? How dare I go to the GYM and BE CONCERNED ABOUT MY HEALTH when clearly I should have been worrying about TEST PREPARATION or DATA or whatever, but sue me, I like yoga.

And, because I am a teacher (Seriously, I need to order that cape so I can scream that from the mountain tops. Note to self. Order cape.) I automatically equated this entire experience to standardized testing.

Here’s my glucose-induced thinking. For what it’s worth. I took a test and regardless of all the other factors out of my control that could effect the results, I was judged on those results. Because that’s what we do. We judge.

Now imagine that I’m an eight year old child who is not capable of adult rational thought. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking…I AM capable of adult rational thought. Occassionally.) And I think that I’m pretty smart and I love my teacher and have confidence in my ability to be successful in school until my mom sends me to school with nothing but Skittles for breakfast on the day of the Big Test and I bomb the test and now I’m in remedial classes, or summer school, or worse – my school is being closed.

Imagine how THAT KID feels.

But hey, thumbs up on the all the accountability.

(Oh, and I’m fine by the way…) (Schools on the other hand…I’m not so sure.)

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  • I love you and your blog and your ability to say all of the things that every other teacher in the free world is thinking but just can't seem to articulate quite like you do. Was that too forward??

    March 19, 2010 at 2:42 am
  • My wife just went through the same test last week, and she said the same thing about the baby. Didn't stop moving for hours!

    I love you comments about this, how many of our students don't eat in the morning, and that just affects them any day of the week…I know it's the the answer to everything, but it is important. I love reading your blog and pass it along whenever I get a chance! Thanks for putting it out there (and shame on those individuals who think firing teachers is the answer!!!!!)

    March 19, 2010 at 2:42 am
  • So true. Each year before the big state test, I would give my students a little lecture on getting enough sleep and eating just a LITTLE something in the morning, even if they don't normally eat. I give them rational reasons why, and drop the phrase "studies show" – because teens don't believe common sense advice, but if there's a study, maybe. What do I hear the morning of the test? "Oh I stayed up until 3am last night…" "Here's my breakfast (holds up soda) – haha!"


    March 19, 2010 at 12:23 pm
  • PS. That test is to see how your body handles the sugar. If it treats it like a foreign substance and things go crazy, that's good!

    If it treats it like, my owner's been rocking the processed sugar all pregnancy, that's bad.

    March 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm
  • It's slightly easier with the little kids. My husband, bless him for his determination, insists that our daughter eat breakfast every morning. No matter what a bad example I set. So even when he travels, she insists on breakfast. Even if she is running late for school.

    March 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm
  • We recently finished the first round of our annual state tests.

    [Yes…we get to do more at the end of April. One test isn't enough for the State of Indiana to fill the Data Monster's Maw because we have so much that we teach our kids we need to divide it in two!!! ]

    Anyway, I canceled classes for my first and second grade at risk students so I could administer the tests to 5th grade special ed students. Even though the tests are inappropriate for most of them, they are "allowed" accommodations to "even the playing field."

    In any case…on the first day of the tests I went through the whole routine…Did everyone get a good night's sleep? Did everyone feel ok (We want no bodily fluids expelled on the tests, please because someone – namely me – would have to don surgical gloves and copy all the answers into another test booklet, and then put the offending book in a baggie to be sent off as proof that the tests make people sick).

    Then I asked, "Did everyone eat breakfast?" I didn't say, "Did everyone eat A GOOD breakfast?" because Mimi hadn't written this entry yet. If she had, I would have.

    J.A., our school's poster child for ADHD, said, "I had ice cream for breakfast."

    'nuff said.

    March 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm
  • When I had to take that test, I knew I needed a good breakfast, so since I couldn't stomach the thought of eggs, I had… wait for it… waffles. With SYRUP. No kidding, huh? I'm lucky my system had no prob at all with sugar.

    A friend linked me to this blog yesterday:

    Another real teacher (gasp!) speaking the truth.

    March 19, 2010 at 2:33 pm
  • On the mornings of the Big State Test, my husband's county provides breakfast for ALL students. Considering it's one of the largest school districts in the nation, that's no small feat. (The state test is a giant clusterf*&^, but that's another matter entirely.)

    March 20, 2010 at 11:55 am
  • New reader here, and I totally agree. I am not a teacher yet, but will be soon. I do deal with children on a regular basis as a part of my education and a part of my life. Some of the students I work with at 10 am on Monday mornings deserve a granola bar or something! I feel like I need to smuggle them in for them. Some of the schools here in Minnesota offer a free breakfast for all students, which is SO nice. Now to get the parents to stop watching Regis and Kelly and get their children to school early enough to participate in the free breakfast…that is another story. Great Blog, I love it and you are my Muse.

    March 22, 2010 at 12:50 am

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