Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Gut check time

One thing about city kids is that they can be brutally honest. They never try to kiss your ass; instead, they do the opposite. They kick your ass with blunt, merciless, painful truth. Lecture for more than five minutes? You hear the yawns and see the heads plop onto desks. Tell a stupid joke and someone will say, "That was a stupid joke." Ask the tardy students why they were late or the slackers why they didn't do their homework, and they'll tell you, "Because I didn't feel like being on time" or "Because I didn't feel like doing it."

This is in direct contrast with what I saw in the suburbs, where I did my student teaching a long, long ago. I can still remember hearing so much B.S., fielding so many insincere compliments, dealing with so many attempts at extra credit. Maybe things have changed, maybe kids everywhere are honest nowadays, but I'll take my honest city kids any day.

I am reminded of a bit of painful truth a student dished out a couple of years ago as I read about National School Lunch Week on mothertalkers. Among other facts discussed there today are these:
  • Children born in the year 2000 will be the first in our country's history to die at a younger age than their parents.
  • More than 35 percent of our nation's children are overweight, 25 percent are obese, and 14 percent have type 2 diabetes, a condition previously seen primarily in adults.
Apparently, there's some connection between all this unhealth and school lunches. Anyone who has ever been to a public high school cafeteria knows the connection. Here's my anecdotal evidence ...

Several years back, after class, as students were heading out of my room, a guy hung back and said, "Can I give you some advice? Don't ever wear that sweater again."

Later on I looked in a mirror and saw what he meant. It was a fairly snug black sweater that perfectly accentuated my skinny frame and quickly expanding waistline. I looked horrible. I had to act fast before I had a gigantic gut.

In about three months, the gut was all but gone. I don't have a flat stomach or anything, but I don't have a major gut either. Maybe if I exercised more, I could get rid of another inch or so, but the main thing is, I got rid of the gut. My secret diet?

I stopped drinking Coke.

I stopped eating school lunches.

At night and on weekends, I continued eating pizza, drinking beer, being lazy. But by bringing in a lunch from home and not eating the slop that's forced onto students and teachers, I quickly and easily lost two inches from my stomach.

Students no longer tell me not to wear certain sweaters. Instead, every once in a while, someone says, "You look pretty good for your age." And I know they're telling the truth. So I ask, "Do you maybe have a single mom or aunt who might be interested?"

And they roll their eyes and say, "That was a stupid joke."

3 comments:

subhuman said...

My kids have been learning about childhood obesity for WEEKS now. It's pretty exciting to hear them say that fast food/soda/processed-whatever grosses them out. Often they say it over a bag of cheese puffs, but we take baby steps.

appopt said...

As coach, I used to bring cookies to games for players to munch on between innings for the extra energy. Then one time I brought bananas ... those disappeared in seconds. So, I guess the point is, if we want to change their behavior, we must first change our own.

ML said...

When I was teaching on the South Side, I would regularly invite my sixth graders upstairs for lunch. They would bring cafeteria food; I would eat my homemade lunches. At the beginning, they would look at my hummus and veggies, crinkle their noses, and say, "Ewww. You eat the nastiest stuff." By mid-year, they would eat more of my lunch than I would! When we had class parties, they wanted apples more than anything else. The thing is: Food that's good for you is usually good. Many of my kids didn't ever get the chance to eat good food (fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, granola bars) because of a sad fact: It's a lot easier (and often cheaper) to eat shit.