As the term continues, something starts to happen to the fridge in the staffroom. It happens every term. Forgotten lunches, missed when their maker ended up in a lunchtime meeting or supervising students or somehow managed to score a yard duty extra, begin to fester and gather mould and aroma. By midway through each term the fridge becomes something to be opened at your own peril, an OH&S risk that is right up there with inhaling deeply when there is a gastro outbreak at the school or climbing a ladder without having a licence. Quite frankly, the fridge has turned toxic.
I know that, like many of my colleagues, I begin the year (and, let’s face it, term), with high aspirations of making my lunch each day, ticking all the nutritional guidelines of the food pyramid and shunning the temptation of the ever-present canteen. It works well for a few weeks and then something changes. A little part of your enthusiasm dies and suddenly your lunch standards drop. It happens intermittently at first. You might have a Friday where you bring in rice crackers and a dip or two, or ends of a loaf of bread and a slightly sad tomato after an otherwise impressive week of leftover risotto and salads. There’s that Wednesday when you only manage to pack three muesli bars for the whole day. Then, it’s like the switch is flicked and the standard drops right down. Right down.
We all know what we’re talking about here … that’s right: the day you make your less than triumphant return to the school canteen. Never a proud moment. In fact, lining up with half of year 8, you realise that you are making a poor choice. There are no salad rolls left (were there any to begin with?) and the waft of sweating dim sims hangs in the air. When is sushi day? Clearly not today.
The students are jostling for the limited number of hot dogs and potato cakes while you desperately scan for something that resembles wholemeal bread.
The time of year that I return to the canteen tends to align itself directly with my switch from a “one coffee a day” person to a “sky’s the limit” person. This is not a positive change for me or the kids I teach. I know (and so do my students) that once a coffee mug makes it into my classroom it’s a clear indication to watch out.
This brings me to my get-rich-quick plan for 2014. I think I should invest in a mobile coffee cart and use my free lessons to make and sell coffee at highly inflated prices. We all know there are days in teaching when you would re-mortgage your house for a decent coffee, and I aim to capitalise on those moments.
I am even prepared to deliver to classrooms, for a little bit extra. Surely after term 2 I could head off to Tahiti for a few months on my profits? Thoughts?
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian.