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EDUCATION DINER

Written By Kate Bollum

 

QE2 NetworkThe following was submitted to us. Written by a teacher, she paints a parallel between teaching and running an eatery. It’s an excellent analogy for these strange times we are all living in. Every parent/ grandparent and student should read it.

A bit long, but I get these questions and comments a lot lately. “What’s it like online teaching?” “Are you still working?” “Must be nice to have a break, ha! ha!”

Switching to online teaching is a bit like being a chef at a fancy restaurant that flooded. Now I cook from a food truck, but my community expects the same dining experience.

Normally, I carefully pick herbs and vegetables from the garden (that I grow myself), buy protein from various farms, and order in special items. I spent all year creating my menu and ordering all the food, but I had to throw out half of it because I can’t prepare it the same way in my food truck.

I cook meals for 125 kids a day, 5 days a week. I set the table with dishes and cutlery that I carefully polish, and bring in my own flowers, candles, and tablecloths to make it a welcoming dining experience. I invite all of my kids (and even parents) to dine at my restaurant.

44 diners do not show up, even though they said they would come. I can see them walking by the restaurant, but despite asking them repeatedly to come in and eat for free, they don’t want to. I phone, email, text, and video conference with them and their parents, but it’s like they’ve completely vanished.

11 claim they don’t know where the restaurant is, despite dining here the whole year. I email them a map. They arrive. They claim they don’t know how to eat lobster. I show them how. Their parents phone and want instructions on how to eat lobster. I also show them how with instructions, a video, and several books on the subject. The kid decides they don’t like lobster, even though they haven’t taken a single bite. I offer them a different dish. They leave. Their parents complain that I didn’t feed them. They leave after the first week.

12 complain about the food selection, even though I have carefully adapted my menu to serve vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, paleo, low-sodium, low-carb, gluten-free, and check for allergens for each kid. I went to several meetings and courses to learn how to make these dishes. Their parents complain because I didn’t have a keto plate. Two parents thank me for the support with their kid’s low-sodium meals. They leave the restaurant after two weeks, but I still have to call and see if they want to come and eat. I feel like an annoying telemarketer, they don’t even pick up the phone now.

10 want me to cut up their steak into little bites and then spoon-feed them their meal. They ask every night for this, even though I’ve been working all year to try and get them to eat on their own. I can’t serve other kids because I get tied up trying to feed so many individuals. Sometimes I will get lucky and can get a waiter to help me cut up the food, but with budget cuts, my restaurant can’t afford that many waiters. I wonder why their parents haven’t taught them how to use utensils yet, but quickly find out that their parents have been cutting their food for them their whole lives. They leave after the third week.

5 kids show up at 5pm, 9pm, 3am, and on weekends and want me to feed them, despite having my hours posted and well-communicated. I still feel bad for not feeding them.

8 kids want me to deliver the food to them. It’s a bit more work, but I have no problems doing it. I adapt my menu so they get hot food, and I even use my own plates. When the waiters deliver the food now, they won’t answer the door. I never get my plates back.

7 kids leave their food virtually untouched, only picking out the pieces they like and leaving the rest. Their parents want to know what their kid ate every day, even though they could simply ask their kid. Or check their dining app or their emails.

12 kids show up when their parents force them, pretend to eat the food, but actually dump their plate into the trash can when their parents aren’t looking. I ask them if they want another plate, but they don’t respond. They show their parents the empty plate, and parents are too busy to notice. I don’t blame the parents because I know they’re stressed and overworked, but I still worry about their kids.

16 kids show up on time, eat the food, and even say thank-you. They fill my heart so full I could cry. I want to hug their parents. I am so thankful for these students because they remind me why I chose to become a chef for a living. It’s not a job; it’s a career and a large part of my identity.

Running the food truck is exhausting, but the relaxed dress code is a perk. I’m lucky because I don’t have my own kids to feed and nurture, on top of running the restaurant. I don’t know how those chefs with their own kids do it. I hope I can go back to my restaurant, but with the flooding, I’m not sure I’ll have a job there in the fall. I wonder if all chefs feel this way.

 

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