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What Are Your Rules About Students Eating In Class?

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Explore many responses – both in the comments section of this post and in the embedded tweets!

What are your rules about students eating in class?

I’m raising this question because it’s come up in the student evaluation of my IB Theory of Knowledge class – several students thought I should be more liberal about it.

These are what my rules have been:

* If it’s after lunch, and you didn’t have a chance to eat during the lunch hour (which is very short) because of a school-related activity, you can eat in class.

* If we’re doing a small group activity with talking and moving around, feel free to eat.

* Other than those times, eating can be distracting to you and to people around you, so I ask that you do not eat.

In my other classes with younger students, I have a blanket “no-eating” policy.  It has been my experience that – in those situations – students eating has generally been very distracting to the “eater,” it’s distracting to others who want the person eating to share their food with them, and they there is more of a tendency to leave a mess.

Of course, I also maintain an ample stock of graham crackers, trail mix and fruit snacks that I give out to students who miss the free breakfast or who continue to be hungry, and often will give out a snack to the entire class.  In those cases, the regular rules do not apply.

I’m eager to hear from other teachers about your policies and what grades you teach!

ADDENDUM: Here are some responses I’ve received on Twitter:

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

6 Comments

  1. We eat when we’re hungry. You can’t focus when you’re hungry. I finally figured that out after 26 years. 😉 No Doritos, Takis, Cheetos or anything that turns your fingers Orange! I teach 4th graders near Houston, TX.

  2. With my middle school students, I’ve noticed that when I say, “No Food,” I spend a good amount of time policing them and dealing with them breaking that rule. What’s more, they sneak the food and make more of a mess! So the past few years, my policy has been, “You can eat if you don’t make a mess and it is not a distraction.” Most students abide by this, so they don’t make a mess and are focused. I have told certain students who do not follow my requests they have lost the privilege. Usually out of over a 100 kids, it’s really only one or two per year I have to tell that to.

  3. I teach 9th grade science in a high poverty school. I keep healthy food on hand. I allow students to eat but out in the hall for several reasons. 1. Eating and drinking in a science lab, even a regular classroom used as a lab is reinforcing a behavior that could be unsafe in the future. 2. If they have something to eat, no orange food of food that melts. 3. They eat in the hall because I have dealt with bug and rodent problems as does any school that has students dropping crumbs, spilling drinks and hiding wrappers all over our room. 4. I have kids with severe food allergies. 5. I have kids who are hungry, really hungry. I make sure I know who is going hungry, (check with counselors, get to know my students, talk with other teachers). I want to be able to create and environment where they don’t have to admit they have no food in front of the class. If a child is hungry I share what I have brought for snacks, give lunch money and had a few kids I would bring PB and J from home for them to take home if the school was out of the weekend and holiday food resources. Eating in the hall stopped the,”I want some (from students who have food.) It DOES add up for me financially, about $30.00 a month, but as others said you can’t learn when you are hungry.

  4. I totally agree, Larry, this is an issue that never quite resolves itself satisfactorily. Here’s a link to a post I posted on edublogs (which I joined thanks to you!) on the topic, presenting the different aspects of the issue with high-school students.
    http://visualisingideas.edublogs.org/2015/09/23/the-sticky-issue-of-food-in-the-classroom/

    BTW – Just a comment on the photo I used. Can you imagine there once was a summer camp for children to help them gain weight?! 1947!

    Yours,
    Naomi Epstein

  5. I let students eat if/when hungry, but set rules about cleaning up and appropriate foods. Sometimes students are so busy they don’t eat, which leads to fatigue and less paying attention in class.

  6. As a college lecturer/adjunct, I see undergrads students at various times, and occasionally they have not eaten all day—even when I teach at 2:00 or 4:00pm. So I explicitly tell them it’s fine to bring food to class.

    The other situation is when I teach at noon. If a student has a 10:00am class followed by mine, there’s no time for lunch. I highly prefer that they make a pit stop and bring something to class.

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