WASHING DISHES for about 200 people is more exciting than washing dishes for two or three! You get to use lots of equipment, including a spraying hose and a big dishwasher — you just insert your load and hear a hiss and the machine takes it in and goes to work.
I’ve done this job twice. I look forward to doing it again, even thoughI have to give up a recess to do it. Here’s how it works:
First the two kids go down to the cafeteria at 11:15 a.m. and wash their hands. Next they volunteer to ether put away or dry the dishes.
Once that is decided, they wait for people to clear their lunches and Cafeteria Manager Sonya Hamdan or Roxanne Shearer will put the dishes in a huge washing machine to wash the dishes.
If they put in silverware, the kid putting dishes away gives them back and puts them in once more. When silverware is washed twice, the “put awayer” puts them on a table and the dryer probably dries them. That process goes on and on until every class, from pre-K to 6, is dismissed by 12:30 p.m.
The dishwasher is quite loud when the dishes go in.
You have to wear gloves and you cannot touch any part of your face during your job.
According to Mrs. Hamdan the work is also very important:
“We love having them here, especially as there are only two of us. The kids do a great job.”
Sometimes, she added, “helpers come back years later, even after they graduate, and say they remember this as a fun time, and that they miss it. That can bring a tear to my eye,” she told the Flow.
After everything, on my way back to class, I tend to feel proud and my fingers feel wet and pruny.
SNOW HAS YET to fall in our neck of the woods but the great outdoors are lovely all around, and we can certainly take a walk or enjoy a hike. Sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country and downhill skiing aren’t far off. According to BSE physical education teacher Mary Johansmeyer, kids will rise to the challenge of physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices if given the chance — and clever encouragement.
Flow: We were just speaking with Cafeteria Manager Sonya Hamdan about healthy eating and student success…
Mary: It’s essential. I’m on the Wellness Committee, which is setting our nutritional policy for the district. The state came up with this requirement for a committee to oversee nutrition, physical education, and a healthy lifestyle. I’m on it along with Sue Mitchell, the nurse liaison for the district; Denise Dunbar, the nurse from Sanderson; the other elementary P.E. teacher and high school P.E. teacher; and we’re trying to get the health teacher on board.
The goal is to make sure our kids lead healthy lifestyles. We’re looking at health as much as we can, including what the kids eat in school, like at parties. We try to dictate what is allowed for parties. It used to be all what I call junk: good[-tasting] junk, but is it healthy?
We’ll meet monthly and present our recomendations to the School Committee. This isn’t new: We’re just revisiting it.
Flow: What are the kids working on now?
Mary: The young kids work on movement concepts: spatial awareness and basic skills just so I can hook them in to kind of get them excited about moving.
The older kids, I always start out with teamwork so they can get used to working with one another. I just introduced a game called Hover Ball. The kids saw it on TV. I don’t watch a lot of TV. It’s half of a soccer ball and you kick it and it just sort of glides across the floor. It was great for the older kids because I always start soccer later in the fall: the grass is always soaking wet in the mornings and I hate bringing them out in it where their feet are soaking, so I’m always stuck with, How do I teach soccer without being outdoors? This is awesome because we learned our basic skills, and then once we got into game-playing we were able to play in the gym. We have goals. They were ready.
Flow: What’s your goal for P.E. this year overall?
Mary: My goal is just to keep them motivated and excited to move and just want to keep exercising and moving and having fun. We’re always trying to come up with new, fun ideas.
Flow: Many kids say they want more recess. Principal Joanne Giguere points out there are only so many hours available for that, given the requirements on instruction time. What’s your view?
Mary: I feel that recess, or just running and moving, is so important. That’s how kids learn: by doing. If they’re just sitting at the desk all day, yeah, I can teach you by talking, but if you do it, if you learn through moving, you’re going to remember it much longer.
In here a lot of the time I’ll try to incorporate what they’re doing in the classroom, like math facts. The sixth graders are working on it and getting better at their multiplication. They work in pairs: One person is the jumper and someone else holds the math fact cards. They might get “seven times seven” and have to jump on the answer, and do as many as they can in 30 seconds. You’ve got to know those numbers, and you’re jumping and it just plants that in your brain. Whatever the classroom is doing I try to pick up on something and make it physical.
Flow: How long have you been teaching here?
Mary: About 18 years. I didn’t start until Kelly, my youngest out of four, started first grade. I came back to teach. My degree was phys. ed. When I first got married I taught up in New Hampshire a little bit and then when we started having kids we moved back here. I didn’t want to be a working mom. I didn’t want to be away from the kids so I did daycare and I took in a lot of teachers’ kids, and our vacations were the same, and my husband was a teacher, so it worked for us around vacations.
Flow: As parents, what are we up against in terms of keeping kids active: screen time?
Mary: Definitely. Kids need to be moving. I just did the pre-fitness test for fifth grade, and just looking at the fitness components I talked to the kids about — abdominal strength, muscular strength, upper body strength, endurance, and flexibility — we talk about why each of those pieces are important to be healthy.
In many cases we’re finding where we need improvement, where we see a health risk. Now I’m going to go over their results with them and send these results home. It shows them, “I need to be outside; I need to be more active.” How many curl-ups can you do in a minute? How many 90-degree push-ups? How flexible is your reach? How fast can you do 2,000 steps? These are our standards. It gives us a measurement we can improve on.
Flow: Do you teach the kids how to perform an effective push-up?
Mary: I teach them that from Day One: how to do the exercise safely and effectively. We’ll do different things, not just pushups. Pushups are hard. It’s motor planning. There’s a lot to think about, so I always think of additional things to do to work on upper-body strength.
Flow: Is there anything else you think parents should know?
Mary: I only have the kids an hour a week. Their success depends on what they do when I’m not around, though I’m always happy to help. Kids need to be doing more at home. I am seeing that.
Teachers, parents, students, community members: You can write for us too! Tell us something new about who we are and where we live. We’ll help!
EVERY DAY is a new adventure for Olivia Girard, the new employee for the after-school program.
Olivia is very friendly, has long, light-brown hair, and says she loves working with children. She recently graduated from Mohawk High School, where she was on the honor roll, played tennis, and performed in three plays.
She said she enjoyed acting and singing very much. She was the green bird girl in “Suessical the Musical” and had roles in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and in “All Talk.”
Soon she’s going to be studying at Greenfield Community College to learn more about sociology and cultural anthropology.
“Sociology is the study of people; looking deeper into people’s values and beliefs past and present,” she told the Flow.
At BSE she is working with After-School Director Raelene Lemione. Together they look after 12 to 30 kids every day.
WE WONDEREDwhat goes into the school meals program at BSE. One dayrecently after the lunch rush Flow reporter Diana Yaseen and adviser John Snyder sat down with Cafeteria Manager Sonya Hamdan to find out.
Diana: Where does the cafeteria food come from?
Sonya: Some comes from the government. Every month we receive a list and can choose from what’s on that list. There might be some hamburger or chicken, frozen vegetables, canned fruits, lots of things like that, and I’ll order from there. Also I order through a company called Thurston for breads and anything else we need, all the vegetables… The milk and the yogurt come from All-Star Dairy.
Diana: How do you decorate?
Sonya: I bought the decorations myself. The Christmas ones, some of them, Mrs. Shearer brings in from her home. All the Thanksgiving decorations are mine that I bring in from home. We lower those three strings and I can hang things from the ceiling. I think it makes it more festive to have something over everyone. And then I cut out with my Cricket machine different things to put on the bulletin boards. If I see something on sale that fits the theme I buy it.
Diana: How much food do you serve every day?
Sonya: Today was chicken nuggets and peas and carrots. We served 128 kids and so many adults. That’s why lunch counts are so important, so we know for sure. I have an idea, but right now we have a lot of kids who are out sick. So we need to have an accurate count. On a day like today when we have a per-piece item, like chicken nuggets or hot dogs, I need to know how many kids are eating so I can do that much — and I always cook a little extra. Kids come in late, or don’t sign up for whatever reason, and we have enough. Every chicken nugget is counted when we put it on the tray.
For the Thanksgiving meal we served 247 [diners].
Diana: And everyone else brings in their own lunch?
Sonya: There are 260-something kids in the school, so the others bring in their own lunch. Buckland-Shelburne has been a school where a lot of the kids bring their own lunch, consistently, for whatever reason. A third of the kids, anyway. There are some with food allergies, so we eliminated our peanut butter. Now we have SunButter [soy-and-sunflower-based]. That way we don’t have to worry about anyone. And a fair amount of gluten allergies. And there are some kids who just like what their mom or dad packs.
Chicken nuggets is one of the most popular lunches, along with breadsticks, pizza, and French toast sticks…
Diana: Fruit is popular.
Sonya: Every month different things come in that the kids like: frozen strawberries, some cheeses, canned and frozen fruit. This list is for the entire district. I write a wishlist for what I would like of those, as the list is for all the schools in the district. If there are only three of something a school isn’t going to get what it wants. But they’re usually pretty good about making options available.
Diana: How about breakfast? How many people?
Sonya: It seems to be 28 to 30 people. We’d like more. But what happens is that when kids come in they like to play on the playground with their friends. They don’t come in and have breakfast, even though it’s free for everyone who has free lunch, or 30 cents for reduced price, and $1. Thirty-six is the highest we’ve had.
Diana: Is there a lot of measuring?
Sonya: There is. Everything has to be measured. For example, when I’m making up the menu, I write down what I would like to do [serve], and then go back though and put in the vegetable component, the fruit component, the grains, the meats, because it has to meet requirements — a half cup (this is for lunch) daily, and a weekly requirement. Each kid for lunch must be offered certain minimum and maximum amounts.
The difference is that, starting this year,  the kids have to go out with ½ cup of fruit — even if they don’t want it or they don’t eat it. They have to go out.
Vegetables: ¾ cup offered every day. Usually that’s ½ cup of one kind and ¼ cup of a fresh. But it has to be 3 ¾ cup per week.
Meat: At least 1 oz. day. We always serve 2; it can be a little more. But it cannot be more than 10 oz. per week.
Grains: 1 oz. That’s why, today, with chicken nuggets, I had to put a piece of bread on. Because the breading on the chicken nuggets did not count up to 1 oz.
And so forth. If you don’t follow these guidelines, when the state inspects you, you will lose all of your commodities that you order from the government; you will lose all of your reimbursements from the government, which is based per meal.
[Referring to guidelines] Here, this is a minimum of 1 oz. Who would give a kid only 1 oz. of meat or meat alternate?
John: Do you see kids having more energy and focus after breakfast and lunch? Do you see that as part as what you do in terms of being in a school setting?
Sonya: I think you’re right. More so, I think we give lunch to some kids who don’t have any lunch at all: No breakfast, no lunch. There are actually kids in this school who would not otherwise have a breakfast or lunch, and sometimes when they go home don’t have a supper either. So that is a sad fact.
Some kids in years prior have come up to me after the Thanksgiving meal and thanked me because they don’t have a Thanksgiving meal at home, never see decorations at home. It’s not the norm but it’s more common than you might think.
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