Day 113: bagel dog (with a side of educational reform)

Today’s menu: bagel dog, fries, sun chips, fruit cup (it was frozen — which doesn’t happen that often actually).
I’m not a fan of the bagel dog. It’s not “real” food in my opinion. But I ate it. Not all the bread though because it was mushy. The picture below is of the inside of the bagel dog. I crack it open on the side and dripped ketchup inside so there’s a little ketchup oozing out. You can see the dough is crumbly on top and mushy on the bottom.
I can’t remember the last time I got a fruit cup that was frozen, but this one was very cold. I didn’t eat it.
I ate the fries and the chips quickly. They were not memorable.
Today I did end up eating the meal with a coworker who offered me some of her salad. It looked tempting and a desperately craved something green, but I declined. But I came home and made a salad for dinner that contained boston lettuce, snap peas, red pepper, dried cranberries, almonds, organic micro greens, a little arugula, sliced carrots with chicken sausage and pitas. I needed to counter balance “the bland.”


“Bad teachers need to go!” I hear that a lot and I agree. Most teachers agree too. At my school there are a couple of teachers that have lost…their zest for the profession. I think they need to find other employment and it would improve morale of the remaining teachers and staff members. (A friend just saw “Waiting for Superman” and said it was good. I’d like to see it soon too and form my own opinion.)

But when we discuss “bad” teachers, we need to make sure that we don’t denigrate the teaching profession. It’s a tough job and I know that most teachers are working incredibly hard for their students. I know that the union of which I am part releases press statements that make me cringe. I don’t like their strong tone; it turns me off. On the other hand, I do want good teachers to get the respect they deserve for the work they do on behalf of children every day. There must be a happy medium where the union can stop sounding bellicose and the district can say more positive things about teachers and valuing their work.

What’s wrong with our educational system aside from a few bad teachers? How about class size? Research on class size  indicates that lower is better, but how low? For the early years of K through 2nd grade it needs to be 20 students or less for solid gains in achievement. At my school there are numbers are +/- 30 students in each classroom for those grades. That’s just not good enough if we want to make sure all students are learning.

Returning to my school in particular, I haven’t seen management take any step towards trying to make the “bad” teachers do anything extra to improve their technique. But I have seen management fire a different teacher with tenure in the past. Any guesses why? If you said “politics,” you would be right! (For reference, here’s my elementary description of tenure as how I understand it).

All I know is that when I think about school lunch reform it goes together with revamping education. It’s about re-imagining the school environment completely. I would like to see schools run under less of a business model and more like a medical model (which I touched on briefly before). Quick, accurate, individualized assessments first and then a substantial time spent “treating.” As it currently stands teachers spend too much time testing and lose precious instructional time with kids who don’t have enrichment opportunities at home.
If our country is really serious about educational reform, we need to get rid of bad teachers (which means tackling the union and getting them on board), reduce class size, improve school lunch, and provide recess. Where do we start first?

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29 thoughts on “Day 113: bagel dog (with a side of educational reform)

  1. The reality is that as long as teaching is not considered a particularly respectable or honorable profession, the state of education in the US will not change. Finnish children do the best in the world on standardized tests…and going to teaching college in Finland is about as competitive as law school in the US, and many classrooms have *2* teachers. Yet here in the US, it is an unfortunate reality that the vast majority of educators come from the bottom tier of college student achievers. I don't mean that as a knock on all the great teachers out there, but as a profession, it doesn't attract the kind of respect it ought to not only attract a higher caliber of young teacher, but to inspire current educators.

    Unfortunately, this is the hardest thing to change, yet the most important thing *to* change.

  2. That is one Sad lunch Mrs. Q.

    And as for Education reform as with School Lunch, maybe we need to just start over.

    I don't know how we do that.

    I know that in my own city the powers that be have been trying to make things better for over 30 years by busing kids all over the city.(to the tune of several MILLION dollars a year on buses and gas that could be used for teachers and technology)
    We have magnet schools to try to attract kids to parts of the city they would otherwise never step foot in, and kids from the inner city that get sent to the burbs, kids from the burbs sent to the city.

    Kindergartners on the bus for over an hour each way, every day. It is hard on the kids.
    Yes, the younger kids mix and mingle and are color blind mostly, but by the time they get to highschool they aren't.
    Just look in the lunchrooms.

  3. You might like Bill Maher's view on the whole "fire teachers" thing. If you like Bill Maher, of course 😉

    Before more teachers were hired at the school where my mom teaches, she was going to have 45 6th graders in one class. She didn't even have enough desks for that many students, and even so, how can you expect to teach like that? It makes me sad to put the blame on teachers, it seems like a cowardly way out instead of addressing the real issue.

    On a separate note, also announced today was the idea to lengthen the school year. Maybe you'll address that in an upcoming post? It'd be interesting hearing your take.

    Also, are chips a "vegetable" or a "bread"? 😉

  4. Chips are the grain and fries are the veggie! Crazy! Sorry about your mom having 45 students. It's lunacy. I've seen kindergartens with 40 kids, but that's when they split them and go half-day, which doesn't solve the problem for kids coming from poverty (half-day with the teacher and class, half-day in front of the TV).

  5. Oh God, Child Nutrition Act help us. French fries are not a vegetable. Chips and fries. Even the kids laughed at that lunch today.

  6. With the economy the way it is today it's no wonder teachers who are ready to move on are sticking around longer than they should. For all it doesn't pay as well as some other professions, teaching at least comes with job security and benefits. Where is a 40 or 50+ teacher to go in the private sector and have any kind of guaranteed retirement or health insurance?

  7. Mrs. Q, I have seen disgusting lunches, but THIS ONE wins. Fries=veggie? Chips=grain?!

    WHAT the HELL?!?

    What sort of moron comes up with those stupid rules? I'm sorry, but it's lunches like that which completely disgust me. I just can't believe it. (I won't comment on the teacher thing because I'm Canadian and we have a different system)

  8. Mrs. Q, have you ever tried to incorporate physical activity in you lessons? You could try a nature walk (even if it is just on school grounds), adapt some tag games, like color tag, tv tag (use vocab words), What Time is it Mr Fox. I had one teacher make us stand up & do the Macarena at least once a day in 4th grade because we were so wiggly.

    I just found your blog the other day & have read all the archives – I am so thankful for going to the school I went too! We had recess, gym, & decent food – along with a great lunch experience!

    Keep it up, the end of your project is not too far off! I enjoy your commentary & it looks like you have gotten quite the group of followers!

  9. the *biggest* issue we have is *funding*. the schools we want to build *cost money*. that doesn't just mean throwing money at the problem, but it does mean recognizing that what we want will cost more than we're currently paying. smaller class sizes mean larger schools and more teachers, neither of which appear for free. more instructional time again means paying teachers to do the work necessary to produce the results we want.

    in addition, we need to think about ending the cost-shifting that goes on in our classrooms. that is, we want free compulsory public education (at least most of us do), but we increasingly ask parents to bear the burden of paying for a good deal of what is needed to make a classroom work. (school supply list, anyone? paper towels for the bathrooms?) in addition, we ask teachers to outfit their classrooms … on their own dime, and we even give tax breaks to teachers who do this! this is instead of furnishing them with reasonably-equipped classrooms and giving them a modest discretionary budget for consumables, a personal touch, or customized activity sets.

    but we can't have all of that, apparently, because it would mean *taxes*, which sends your average citizen into apoplectic shock. heaven forbid we should give money to *the government* for such a socialist notion as *the betterment of our society*.

  10. That has got to be the "whitest" meal I've seen in a long time. Meals should be colorful!

    As for education reform, we need to scrap the current system and start all over. There is too much administration and not enough support for teachers and students. Our budgets are being cut so far that it is putting student safety at risk. Students needs are not being met and teachers are not getting the support and assistance that they need. This year our schools are doing every other day kindergarten rather than half-day kindergarten in order to save on transportation. This is even worse than half-day because instead of just part of the day in front of the TV they have whole days and sometimes 5 day "weekends"! It's so frustrating for the teachers who have to basically start over after those extended weekends.

    As for the longer school year, I'm all for it. Districts/states that have year round schools have higher test scores and the students have a more consistent educational experience. The whole reason we have summers "off" was based on farming so that kids could be home on the family farms to help. We don't need that any longer. It's time to move on. The average student loses 11% of what they learned over the summer and the teachers have to spend the first month of school getting them back on track before they can move forward.

  11. On the subject of recess, how many minutes of outside time do the children get in a day? i'm in the UK (in London) and my state school primary school age children (up to age 11) get 15 minutes break in the morning and 1hr for lunch (including eating time). In addition they have PE one day and Dance on another. Plus they now all take part in Go4It for the whole afternoon on Fridays. Go4It is an amazing initiative.

    The children take part in a staggering array of activities including ice skating, horse riding or cookery or playing board games at the local old people's home.

    Sorry if a bit off topic, but I wanted to illustrate the "away from a desk" time that they get.

  12. OK, wow! That lunch is pretty pitiful and I imagine everyone who ate it was starving an hour or so later.

    Take the fries away and add a salad, or serve sweet potato fries instead of regular fries.

    My daughter's kindy class has about 20 students with a teacher and an assistant. There are also countless volunteers and special ed staff working with some of the students so the minimum is 2 adults in the room but there are usually more.

    This is a charter school though. I am pretty sure the numbers are higher in the regular schools.

  13. There are 18 kids in my 1st graders class and 22 in my 3rd graders. It is a small, neighborhood school. Our PTO is wonderful, our school does many "extras" with the kids, such as a program where if you read so many books over the summer, you earn a fun day where high school kids come down and coach the kids in dance classes, help them learn a tip or two about shooting hoops or kicking a ball. I love our school and the kids do too. Guess what? There are talks of restructuring the district and in effect, closing our school and turning it into a broom closet. I am sick over this!

  14. The whole tenure system needs to be thrown out the window! My dad's on the school board, and this past year they had to let go of THE best teacher they had simply because one teacher in the department had to go, and the other two were tenured – didn't matter that those two teachers don't seem to care a whit about doing a good job. Every person on the board was absolutely disgusted, but there wasn't anything else they could do – they'd already saved this teacher the year before – reworked the budget to keep him on, but they couldn't do it again.

    In no other job do you get to stay simply because you've been there a certain amount of time – you don't do your job correctly, you go – it's that simple.

  15. Sad lunch indeed. I wonder what percent of that "food" had actual food ingredients in it.

    I am a special ed teacher and am completely baffled by educational rules. My favorite is standardized testing. In order to get a kid qualified for special ed, they have to have low scores on standardized testing among other things to show they are discrepant from their peers. Then every March we take our NCLB test and the special ed kids have to take the test at their grade level, and have to meet standards. Hmm….Didn't we just prove that they need special ed help because they couldn't meet those standards? Why am I suddenly being penalized because a test shows they can't read at the same level as their classmates? (and possibly soon have my salary attached to this) I knew the kid can't read like their classmates. If they could, they would get special ed services.

    There is so much wrong with education in the US. Especially when you see a great school with funding and involvement and only a few miles away you see a school falling apart, with zero funding and burnt out teachers. (especially in the Chicago area, I find this very prevalent)

    I wish teachers were allowed to come up with a system instead of politicians that haven't been in a school in 40 years.

  16. I've been reading your blog for months and and I am often shocked at how unappetizing (and of course, not to mention how unhealthy) the lunches are. However, this is the first time I needed to comment: that hot dog looks gross. I'm sorry you had to eat it, but I thank you for doing so and bringing light to what's going on with school lunches.


  17. I know, I know, I'll sounds like a broken record, but seriously …. CHIPS & FRIES?? I would have liked to see a fresh piece of fruit and some of those Bunny-Luv carrots round out the carbs and proteins here. Reminds me of my own elemntary school days, when Nachos & french fries were sometimes served on the same tray as a "meal". And that was 20 years ago! 🙁

  18. One of the reasons I chose a charter school for my 1st grader is class size. His 1st grade class has 18 kids in it. His kindergarten class had 19. He gets recess every morning and an hour for lunch/recess. They take hikes almost daily. And there is no homework yet. He loves his school, he benefits tremendously from the unorthodox methods. I wish I had that option for my teenager when he was younger. I'm all for year round school, my children are not out bringing in the crops in July. Teachers need time to teach and tools and support to really engage the children beyond rote memorization of facts. Children should love learning for the pure joy of learning, not because they're test scores depend on it.

  19. I've said before in comments here that I think our education system is broken –I think it is too far gone for "reform". I think Charter Schools, where they have the freedom to ignore the "rules", progressive private schools, and home schooling are all attempts to start over. As a college professor, my best students come from these innovative educational environments.

    A friend of mine (who is an educational psychologist) just posted this TED talk about school revolution to her FB page. It's a fabulous talk –you may have already listened to it. If not, it's well worth the 18 minutes. It's by Sir Ken Robinson.

  20. First off it isn't about money. Prior to the GWOT we (and by we I mean our governments) spent more on K-12 education in this country than we did on defense. Even today our K-12 education spending is equal to 70% of the DOD budget. We're spending 13% more of our GDP (over 43 cents of every dollar produced in this country) on K-12 education than we were in 1962, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue the quality of education has improved. There's plenty of money in the system, it's just not doing any good. It's no wonder taxpayers are balking at throwing more money down that pit.

    Secondly, enthusiasm is all well and good, but that's not what teachers are paid for. They are paid to educate children. If they cannot do that they need to be in another line of work, no matter how much they love their job. We need to develop metrics that allow us to determine how effective a teacher is. That way we can get rid of the ineffective teachers and retain the effective ones, regardless of how politically inept they are.

    Thirdly, that lunch looked horrible. If they tried to serve that to me on the ship I would have just gone to sleep. You are a better person than I.

  21. About Tenure:

    Yes it gives teachers some job stability-once you survive 4 years, but it also holds us prisoner. In other jobs, you can change companies if things get bad. You might take a hit in your salary, but you can generally make that up over time, or through bonuses. In teaching, if you leave, you give up your tenure and since our pay is only done on years of teaching you might have to give up half your salary. Would you leave your job if your next job was what you got paid your first year out of college? With no opportunity for bonuses or raises above the standard 2% or whatever is in the district contract.

    Believe me, if tenure was gone it would be quite easy to see which schools were good and bad. The good ones would be where teachers stayed forever, and the bad ones would be were teachers got the heck out as soon as they found a better job. With this system most teachers can't afford to leave, even if they were to find a job at a better school.

  22. I vote for bringing back recess first and foremost. Let PTA members volunteer as yard duty (that's how it was when I was a kid anyway). Let teachers go have meetings or prep time while the kids are out running around for 15 – 20 minutes. Let them burn off some of the crap they ate for lunch that day. Let them get the wiggles out so they can sit down and focus on the lessons.

    I second the question asked by other commentators–do you ever work physical activity into your lessons? The nature-walk suggestion was a great idea (could be worked into a science unit), but a google search of games to play in class would suggest 100 ways to work physical activity into things like spelling or math drills. If you get enough teachers on board, you could even take recess into your own hands.

    Also, do you have a local dollar store? You might be able to score on healthy snacks (raisins, granola, applesauce, plain cheerios) that kids can have on a snack break, just to help supplement the junk you all just had to eat for lunch. You might be able to find enough raisins or granola bars to feed your class for two or three dollars. It may not be practical for every day, but maybe as a friday afternoon treat or something.

  23. I have a comment that relates to some of the other comments on part-time kindergarten – don't forget how hard this can be on the parents, especially those of us who work. Where I live, most public 4-year-old kindergarten is part time – either morning or afternoon. My nephew qualified for a 4K program at his neighborhood school, but it was only mornings. My sister-in-law wanted to send him because he needed a little help to get ready for regular kindergarten, but then he had to be bussed back to daycare every day after class. Because the morning classes were over before lunch, the family had to pay full time costs at daycare plus all the supplies and fees of kindergarten. What crazy person thought of this system? What is a working parent supposed to do with every other day kindergarten? My youngest got into one of the full-time 4K programs, but that is only the luck of where we happen to live. You want to move your child out of daycare and into kindergarten so they can get ready for grade school, but the system makes it so complicated. Rediculous.

    By the way, I love your blog!

  24. On the subject of US education and teacher accountability: In the Los Angeles area this past week, an elementary teacher committed suicide after a website that rates teacher performance by individual teacher gave him a sub par rating. The Los Angeles Times also printed the data from the website in the paper. According to the teachers in his school, this young man was a dynamic and devoted teacher, who spared no time or effort on behalf of his young students, often even attending their sports events and birthday parties. A great deal of the teachers' scores were attributed to standardized test results. While it's hard to blame any one factor for a suicide, this teacher apparently had been completely demoralized by his ranking and it's dissemination through the local press. Surely we can have accountability without resorting to personalized finger pointing such as this. What a tragedy.

  25. Hello Ms. Q!! I wish I knew your first name, I just wanted to thank you for this project you started. I found your blog about a year ago I believe and have been following since then. I am in a concurrent teacher education program in Canada and my friend and I chose the topic of Nutrition in Schools and the various arguments and issues of the topic. I was wondering if it is alright if we mention your blog. It will be referring to people, and groups that are taking action. Your list of links on the side has proved very resourceful to us! I wanted to maybe have a chance to interview you, through email, ask you about 3 questions, if this is okay, I will check back, or you can email me at

    Thank you!

  26. Responding to Jeff Gauch:

    I do not know if the money we put into schools is going to the right places, but when comparing educational expenses today to educational expenses to the 1960s here are a few things to consider:

    In the 1960s schools did not have the same technology expenses as they do today. Schools did not need things like computers to effectively educate students because society did not demand that adults know how to use computers. Please note that I have no idea what percent of the current education budget is spent on technology.

    Second, in the 1960s there was a much bigger pool of talent to draw from because women had fewer opportunities. Today talented women have more options, and it is necessary to pay teachers more to attract talented people. I do know that a large percent of our educational budget goes to paying teacher salaries.

    And most importantly, in the 1960s we did not have the same expectations of our educational system. Today we are expected to a better job meeting the needs of a more diverse group of learners including children with learning disabilities. Fifty years ago it was more accepted that most of these children would go on to manual labor jobs. Today more and more jobs require a college degree which changes the definition of a satisfactory education.

    If a satisfactory education has a completely different meaning today than it did in the 1960s, it stands to reason that education would cost a different amount. That all being said, I have no idea if we are spending too much or too little on education. It could be simply a matter of spending money in the wrong places. However, the argument comparing educational expenses today to educational expenses in the past has some holes in it.

  27. Ms. Starks-Teeter

    First I must say I misread the amount of spending on education it is currently 4.3% of GDP, not 43%.

    You make a good point, there have been significant changes in the last 50 years that could have an impact on the costs of education. So I did some further research. I plotted NAEP math scores against K-12 funding (as %GDP) from 1982 to 2004 (in 2004 they changed the assessment format so I stopped there) I then plotted the best-fit line and found an R^2 of 0.05, which indicates a very poor correlation between spending and educational achievement.

    I honestly think that there is enough money in the system, it just isn't being allocated efficiently. For instance there is a teacher in California who is looking for funding to give kindergärtners iPads. I cannot see what educational benefit a child could get that would be worth the $100, assuming each iPad lasted 5 years.

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