The Truth About Teacher Lunch

As a teacher, lunch is one of those times of day that sounds like a glorious reprieve from the mad rush. No matter how much you love teaching, you need a moment (or two) to regroup during the day. As a group of my teacher friends and I were talking about lunches the other day, a friend from Canada was shocked to discover American teachers only get thirty minutes (or less) for lunch.

Of course, she had lots of questions about how we have time to eat, let alone do anything else during that time. As I tried to explain what a thirty-minute lunch is really like, I realized it sounds just as crazy as it feels!

The Truth about Teacher Lunch

The Countdown for Teacher Lunch

30 minutes remaining…Let lunch begin.

On a good day, you are actually walking into the cafeteria with a full 30 minutes of lunch left….of course, you cannot be early because lunch is timed so a new class arrives every three minutes.

Come early a few too many times you’ll earn more than just angry stares from the cafeteria ladies.

27 minutes remaining…No big deal, you’ve got plenty of time!

Billy has once again forgotten his lunch card. You send him back to the room to get it, while the lunchroom attendant proceeds to tell you about how horrible your students were yesterday.

Every ounce of you wants to tell her how they are perfect angels in your room so perhaps SHE needs to figure it out….instead you listen, nod, and look at the clock. When Billy returns you use this as your excuse to run from this conversation.

25 minutes remaining…Five minutes down. Gotta get out of the cafeteria.

Everyone is finally through the lunch line and sitting at the table. As you pass you are stopped because lunches are packed in childproof containers.

Your stomach growls and you think about the fact that you are probably going to have to wrestle someone to the ground to get the microwave if you don’t hurry up.

21 minutes remaining…Time to eat.

You finally make it to the freezer only to realize in horror you’ve accidentally grabbed a Lean Cuisine that takes 6 minutes to cook….6 minutes?!?

Who has that time at lunch?


After silently cursing your luck, you open the packaging with a sigh and pull back the corner of the film. Then you proceed to wait in line for a minimum of 3 minutes because someone else has also accidentally grabbed the wrong Lean Cuisine, and it is still cooking.

While you wait, you make a mental list of all the stuff you needed to get done during lunch.

18 minutes…No one has time to wait for the microwave.
Truth about Teacher Lunch

Your Lean Cuisine is in, and you decide to run check your mailbox because multi-tasking is your middle name. It is, as always, overflowing.

As you sift through the massive stack of junk you find no less than three forms that have to go home today in your students’ weekly folder.

Of course, you’ve already had your prep period and if you get busted doing this during academic time heads will roll…so you grab a fork and your steaming hot Lean Cuisine to plop it on the pile, and trudge to your room to start shoving food into your face while you shove papers into folders.

12 minutes…Time to get to work.

You finally make it back to your classroom, papers and lunch in hand.

As you pull back the film of your Lean Cuisine, the escaping steam burns the heck out of your hand…but you don’t have time to worry about that now. You’ve got papers to stuff.

Between folders you shove a forkful of the liquid hot magma that is your lunch in your mouth. If you are lucky, you’ve moved your drink near where you’re working…if not, too bad. No time to move it now.

10 minutes…The dreaded phone call.

The phone rings…It’s the office. They need to have Callie with her things down there for a dentist appointment right now.

You remind them she’s at lunch.

They proceed to ask you at least three more questions as you stare longingly at your lunch and the papers you still need to stuff across the room.


8 minutes…Okay, I can still do this.

You’ve finished half of your lunch…well done, my friend!

You’ve also stuffed two out of the three forms into everyone’s folder. You are rockin’ this whole working lunch thing.

Then in walks Callie with her mom, prompting you to stop everything because she has “just a few quick questions”.

4 minutes…Or maybe I can’t.

Callie’s mom is still asking you random questions about school events you’ve sent home in at least four different formats…all of which you probably know nothing about because they are extracurricular activities.

You watch the clock nervously knowing that while you cannot be early to lunch, you sure better not be late for pick up.

3db1483d90503802b8e7cf439812447c teacher lunch
2 minutes…I’m going to be LATE!!

She’s STILL talking. You’ve given up on worrying about lunch or the folder papers realizing that you forgot to copy that one paper you really needed for this afternoon.

As you half-listen to Callie’s mom ask you yet another question about the after school Lego group, you develop alternative lesson plans in your head because you know there is no way you will make it to the copy machine….let alone the cafeteria on time.

3 minutes past your lunchtime…Nice try. Tomorrow is another day.

You’ve finally walked Callie and her mom out and raced in your best teacher fast walk to the cafeteria where your students are becoming increasingly bouncy and energetic and the cafeteria staff is looking disdainfully in your direction.

You think about your half-eaten lunch…and the papers you need to get into folders…and the newly formed lesson you are about to start and realize you need to go to the bathroom.

Your inner voice reminds you it is too late now, and you resign to hold it until 3:00 when you are done with dismissal.

As your students walk out of the cafeteria, you sigh. Maybe tomorrow you’ll get to eat…

What does your lunch period look like? Can you relate?

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