The article in the National Post touches on a lot of current issues in schools.  Bullying by someone in a trusted position of authority is always wrong;  “A spoiled banana pulled from a school trash can by a teacher and handed back to a student to eat — resulting in the teacher’s suspension, a Children’s Aid investigation and the withdrawal of an Ontario family’s children from the school — marks another skirmish in the lunchroom politics of schools and daycares.”

The student describes the incident; “’It had all black spots on it so I threw it out,’ the girl told the Simcoe Reformer newspaper. ‘My teacher found it in the garbage and gave it to me. I felt like I had to eat it. I felt like I’d be in trouble if I didn’t eat it.’”  She didn’t really say that the teacher told her to eat it.  So I am unsure as to what exactly the teacher’s instructions were.

I’ve myself have done ‘cafeteria duty many times when I was a teacher.  This involved watching over two hundred teenagers eat.  Not a pretty sight and always noisy.  I noticed that a lot of the kids would buy  french fries with gravy instead of eating the lunch their mothers  made for them.   I stood right beside the garbage can and watched as the kids brought their brown bag lunches up and threw them out.  Many an untouched lunch ended up in the garbage!

This wasteful behaviour disgusted me.  I would stare at the kids as they brought their lunches up to the garbage can.  A teacher’s stare can make a student’s blood run cold and mine was brutal!  The kids would get nervous as they approached the garbage can to dispose of mom’s nurturing lunch.  (Cafeteria duty can be fun!)  As they went back to their tables to finish their gravy and fries they would glance back at me and the garbage can.

I waited until we made ‘eye’ contact and then started rooting around in the garbage can.  I found sandwiches, cookies, apples, all kinds of fruit including bananas. With great concentration I would sort through the garbage and lay out my ‘found’ lunch on the side of the garbage can on a paper towel. I only took sandwiches that were still inside plastic bags and untouched as well as fruit that was still inside the brown paper lunch bags.  Lots of good cookies too!  Then I would eat it.

By this time out of the corner of my eye I noticed a lot of students looking towards me.  They were grossed out! Crazy Mr. Kiar eating out of the garbage!  It ‘offended’ them but they never said anything to me directly.  As they left the cafeteria many would glance sideways at me with disdain.   Whenever I had cafeteria duty that year I ate quite well from the garbage.  I saved a bit of money and my wife wondered what I was eating often she made me a lunch as well.  I ate both.   Haha!  I did eventually tell her and had to ease up on the cookies.

I still buy bargain fruit and vegetables that stores package to sell at a discount because it’s wilted or got too many ‘spots’ on it.  I dehydrate the fruit and enjoy them as snacks – dehydrated pears are the best!  Bananas with spots on the skins can be dehydrated and taste delicious with a daub of peanut butter on them.

To my knowledge, no kid ever ‘got’ what I was really trying to teach.  None of the kids ever asked me about it although countless teenagers were ‘grossed out’ over it.  As a matter of fact, none of my colleagues asked me why I was eating out of the garbage either.  We always did cafeteria duty in pairs and they kind of ignored my ‘eating’ habits too.

Perhaps I should have handed the lunches back to the kids.  But then some kids would have ‘felt’ they had to eat them and then I would have been suspended!