Mar 18, 2013

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Lunch Ideas for Busy Teachers… and a Lunch Pop Quiz!


If you’ve ever walked into an establishment around the lunch hour (let’s say on a day off or in-service day) and see other professionals in suits leisurely chatting and eating, and a little voice erupts inside your head that says “ this is what the rest of the world does on their lunch break,”  then you must be a teacher!

The lunch time flies by during the school day. They haul kids in and out of the lunch room so quickly, I’m not sure if some kids even have a chance to open and drink their milk before they are herding them out for recess. For teachers, it’s a time in the day to take a deep breath and sit quietly and eat your lunch I mean, prep for your afternoon classes!



Lunch eating inhaling art teachers fall into several categories. Let’s take lunch pop quiz and see where you fit:


Which one sounds more like you? A, B, C or D?

A. When your lunch period comes, you go straight to the ‘lounge” and spend the next 15 minutes (at least) in line to use a tiny 300 watt microwave splattered with yesterday’s spaghetti leftovers and by the time your food is hot, you have around 5 minutes left to scarf down your food and run to beat the class that is walking in. The brief adult interaction, however, was worth it.

B. You spend the lunch hour but prepping materials and checking emails. You scarf a turkey sandwich or power bar while sitting at your computer catching up on your ‘life.’ You don’t know how you’d survive if you took the time to wait for a microwave (see option A), and certainly are too busy to chat with other adults. You can save the chit chat for happy hour.

C. It depends upon the day. If you have time and feel caught up, you eat with the students and get a hot lunch. Other days, you might grab something at your desk or eat with other teachers. Sometimes your room is so full of study hall kids finishing artwork, you don’t even get a bite to eat. It totally varies and even though you have no system, it works fine for you.

D. You have no problems with lunch- Your prep period is adjunct to your lunch hour, so you leisurely spend time eating, run uptown to grab something yummy, and still have time to prep for your afternoon classes. Life is good.



If you answered A, then you are doing a good job finding time for yourself during the day but could benefit from getting a few things done over your lunch if you constantly feel rushed or behind. Sitting and waiting for your turn at the microwave may be eating precious time you could be preparing, but overall, you deserve a little ‘student free’ time. Good for you.

If you answered B, then you may be missing key opportunities to get out of your bubble and interact with others in the building,which can be a great time for networking. Don’t feel bad about taking a little time for yourself, though, it’s probably keeping you sane.

If you answered C, you are probably representing most teachers. Each day can be so different and encompass a variety tasks and challenges. Lunch is no different. A little structure may help you manage your time more wisely. For example if you spend M,W,F eating with other teachers and T,Th working in your room, then you may find more balance to get important things done and meet and greet with your colleagues at the same time.

If you answered D, we all hate you. (hehe) Go back to your origami and enjoy the extended lunch. No seriously, we are happy for you. Really.


No matter what your lunch style, I think we can all agree that lunch time is way too short for teachers. Some teachers have several duties to occupy their time around the lunch hour, too. It takes an extra 10 minutes to get bundled up for winter recess duty (yep, that was me!).

One trick I’ve used (on good weeks) is to have lunches prepped for the entire week on Sunday (or at least the ‘sides’) Get one apple, one baggie of carrots, one granola bar, one yogurt, one string cheese, etc.. all ready to go in a Ziploc for each day. Throw together some leftovers to add to the mix and I was set. This magic organization didn’t always happen, but when it did, I was sure glad I took the extra time. Another teacher I know purchased several box flats of Progresso canned soup and an economy pack of granola bars, and had lunch sitting at school for the whole month ready to go. (Can you say ‘sick of soup,’ anyone!?)

Oh, and in my state teachers must be offered a 30 minute, duty free lunch. Is that the same for you? Any other interesting rules at your school?

What did you answer? A, B, C or D? Tell us about your ‘lunch style” 

What is your ‘go to’ lunch item to bring or grab?

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  • Jen Carlisle

    you forgot “E” Rush out the door to get your child from preschool, drop them off at daycare, rush back to school and then choose “A” or “B” before recess duty starts. :)

    • Jessica Balsley

      See, I knew I was forgetting something! Keep the interesting lunch agendas coming. We really ‘do it all’ don’t we?

  • Art on my hands

    I fall into “a”, hate waiting in that microwave line, then I scarf down the lunch with a quick visit with colleagues, don the winter gear and head out to supervise recess. One day a week I have no lunch duty and it is the highlight of the week. I try to cook on the weekend and have things in containers ready to throw into the lunch bag each morning. Small per-package hummus from BJ’S are a life saver some mornings too. I just add an apple and crackers in a zip lock and I’m out the door. I would love that dream prep before or after lunch for a nice break in the day. Maybe one day I’ll get that one, I’ll keep dreaming!

  • Lisa

    I’ve been blessed. No specials teachers in my school have any additional duties and we get 40 minute lunches. Three days, of our 6 day cycle, I have a plan time before lunch. It’s quite amazing. Even then, I find it hard to leave my room to go eat. There’s always too much to do! I also have a lot of students who enjoy spending their recess time after lunch in my room working on things. I can’t leave them in there alone so I often eat in my room to keep an eye on them. I occasionally leave and lock my door before they arrive when I’m in need of adult conversation in the lounge!

  • Vonnie

    In the past 30 years, I’ve seen lots of changes. Teaching used to be so MUCH EASIER – we’d have the same grade levels together WITH 5″ between classes so I’d only have to teach 2-3 lessons a day. Now that has increased up to SIX lessons a day with 6 different grade levels! Often, one class is waiting while the other is marching out and I believe that the art teacher’s load is much harder today – back in ‘the’ day, we didn’t grade much less than worry about assessments – we provided planning time for the core content teachers so our spot was guaranteed.
    Things are soooo different now. My lunch starts at 12:00 at the same time that my students are finishing up! Then, I accompany them down the hall for their lunch. I usually have my planning right after lunch so I’ve been lucky – if I want to run out to McD’s for the $1 menu, I can and on Fridays, our staff orders Mexican if we’d like. But I always try to go to the lounge for at least a while to talk to ‘big’ people and provide a free time to renew myself. I work hard, I love my classes, I love my kids but I DESERVE that time and I need it.

    So, to help my day out, I will come in early – my children are grown now and I did the daycare thing – actually, they went to 2 different providers at the time. If I need to, I will stay a few hours over, but I need that time in the middle of my day to regenerate!
    New teachers – prevent burnout! Include some ‘you’ time in your day. I used to do EVERYTHING but I became resentful because I saw everyone else leaving or having lunch and I learned to delegate or change up my plans so that it was easier for me to do the same (however, I still leave later than some and come in earlier than most – Type A for anal!!!!)

  • Sheil

    I’m a peanut butter and cracker with the apple on the side luncher. I know that it can be a gamble considering the number of peanut allergy students. I like that this lunch can be made at home or left in your cabinet at school. Sometimes I switch it up to a sandwich or whatever. I also try to get into the faculty room at lunchtime, since my art room is in another building and I have very little adult interaction.