Some time ago I wrote a post that took a crack at obesity and eating habits in The States. I think I may have made reference to questionable habits in New Zealand, but I doubt that I really played the blame game all that strongly with reference to Godzone. I AM SORRY!

Why? Because I am ashamed to say I saw something in my local pub last evening that blew me away! No, it disgusted me.

Friday nights I pop down to my local pub and have a few convivials with a few mates, and we talk a lot of crap and generally put the world to rights. It’s a pleasant interlude and more so because we have finished a week and feel we deserve this bit of ‘social intercourse’ and ‘imbibication’- don’t look it up, just accept it to mean ‘having a few beers’.

Of course it would be unusual for any session at your local to go without some sort of minor incident that ‘ruffles the waters’ and so it was on this night. But ‘ruffling the waters’ just didn’t cover it. It was nothing that 95% of the clientele even noticed but, as I said it disgusted me.

A group of 3 women were having drinks at a table across from me, and that was fine, and while I cast an eye their way very occasionally, there was nothing out of the ordinary about them- if anything they were a wee bit extraordinary in that they were all in good shape and clearly took care of themselves. After a while they were joined by a couple of males and 2 children. Obviously a spouse or two and childer of one of the women (I decided one of the women because of the interaction between the pair rather than any obvious physical similarities- although within a year or two of each other the 14? year old boy was a blob while his 13? year old sister was a stick.)

And so to the disgusting bit.

The Dad of the crew decided it was time for some sustenance so two ‘mixed platters’ were delivered to the table. Mixed platters? Deep fried- chips, fish pieces, sausages, crab-sticks, chicken bites and possibly one or two other ‘yummy things’.

Now!!! without a word of a lie the already overweight and out-of-shape youth spent the next 12-15 minutes it took for the group to finish the platters with one or another of the nibbles or chips in his mouth and/or in his hands. His jaws did NOT stop working for the whole time, and as he delivered whatever he was holding into his mouth he was reaching for the next item. THAT disgusted me. And not only was his eating non-stop, his reaching was wide-ranging, from the platter nearest him to the one waaay over there!

What amazed me was that all of the adults accepted this without the blink of an eye- it seemed that this was perfectly normal (and would go no short way to explaining why the boy was so over-weight.) What bemused me was that the youth dipped everything he ate into the tomato sauce that came with the platters!

I happened to be watching a sports telecast this morning that had ex-president Bill Clinton talking about new initiatives in the US aimed at encouraging ‘healthy eating’ and better food habits. While most of what was proposed in the various initiatives sounded great and they identified where things can best be done (schools, businesses, etc.,) not once did I hear the word ‘parents’ mentioned! I am a bit simple, probably, but I believe any and all solutions to youth problems generally have a very good chance of succeeding if they are either implemented or supported by parents. Children need the guidance of their parents as they need good modelling. I happen to believe putting a full plate of deep-fried food in front of a child and letting them scoff to their heart’s content (but to their heart’s detriment) is niether responsible guidance nor good modelling. Good luck, young man- I hope you live to see your twilight years.


Schools As Parents?

All societies have social ills of one kind or another but in New Zealand we seem to be advocating a system of remedy that ignores the core of a successful society- family and positive parenting. Child obesity is a problem? Schools can teach ‘healthy eating’. Children and youth have no respect for people or property? Schools can teach ‘life values’. Children arrive at school without having eaten breakfast? Schools can establish ‘breakfast clubs’. And so it goes on. When are we (the government) going to put the responsibility for curing these (and many other) ills firmly back where they should first be addressed? WITH PARENTS and in the family!!!

Should I Be Here?

Short answer is probably, “No”. I’m doing this at work (yeah, I know- on the boss’s time and all that stuff!) but I don’t have a big pang about this as this is almost part of my job! I am an IT teacher and I am sort of in the process of ‘doing’ blogging with the senior kids, and so while they are beavering away at their world-shattering observations and commentary, I am doing similarly- modelling? Yeah! Right!

Anyway back to my question. I am feeling like death warmed up and have streaming eyes and intermittent sneezes and thus I am probably a walking disaster for those around me. In such a state I suspect it accomplishes very little ensuring regular hand-washing, covering mouth/nose when coughing/sneezing, and any of the other health poster guidelines (although, of course they’ll minimise health hazards as much as is possible!) But our classrooms are very often places where people who really shouldn’t be there spend their days. Kids sent by working parents who can’t (or won’t) find home care for them or teachers who are ill and infectious but who can’t be replaced because relievers are not available (or won’t be replaced because they don’t want someone else running their class.) And, of course hard surfaces that must harbour squizillions of nasties just waiting to spoil someone’s day!

But I am here, and so are at least 3 kids today who shouldn’t be, and I think another teacher elsewhere in the school who would be doing herself and her colleagues and pupils greater service by being elsewhere.

So why are we here? The children’s presence is explained in part by parent’s circumstances, in part by parent’s attitudes, or in part by the desire of the kids to rather be here than at home. But the teachers? I think there are a number of factors here as well- some teachers may have used up their sick leave, some may prefer to not have the potential disruptive effects of less than wholly effective relievers, some may not be well organised enough and a bit afraid of being discovered as being so by another taking over, some may feel that if they could ensure a ‘proven’ reliever would be in charge they’d stay home, some may feel that what is planned for that day requires them to be here, and of course so are just so damned dedicated they think even performing below par is worth the effort of getting out of their sick-bed to be at school. (They ARE NOT here because there is no reliever available- that’s management’s problem.)

So why am I here? Because my role directly effects at least three other teachers’ plans for the day it’s less disruptive than re-scheduling the day another time when I’m feeling better, and because I am not replaced by a reliever if I call in sick it’s simply more expedient and convenient for all if I turn up (so no high principles involved!)

And, actually I’m fibbing. I’m not doing this at school, and I am not feeling like death warmed up with streaming eyes and sneezes, but you get the idea?