Building Community at Langford Elementary with Breakfast-in-the-Classroom

In Patty Candelaria’s first grade classroom at Langford Elementary in Austin, Texas, breakfast-in-the-classroom is a chance to for students and teachers to create a family connection.

“Not only do we feed their minds, we have to feed their tummies, too,” said Candelaria. “There is no better way to build community in the classroom—about table manners, about good conversation, and about sharing and caring with one another.”

Candelaria first encountered breakfast-in-the-classroom (BIC) in 2009, when she was a teacher in the El Paso Independent School District, so when the program came to her Austin ISD classroom she wasn’t nervous. Although the procedures were a bit different, the outcome was the same—nourished students who are ready to learn.

“Here [in Austin] the cafeteria staff puts breakfast into containers, and delivers to every teacher right outside their door while in El Paso we had to go pick them up,” explained Candelaria, who says it was easy to learn AISD’s direct delivery method—for her, and her students.

“If you teach them the process, the learn. Teach them, guide them, be visible to them and show them—they’ll do it. You want to make sure the kids take ownership, and they do.”

In Candelaria’s classroom student ownership of BIC means keeping eating areas clean, reminding each other to clean up after themselves, and looking out for classmates who are running a bit late by saving them a breakfast.

“If you build that community of caring and nurturing, the students will rise up to your expectations,” said Candelaria. “I teach them that we are a school family, and our students want what’s best for the whole class. As teachers if we make it a positive experience for them it becomes positive.”

Although a common concern surrounding BIC is that teachers will lose crucial instructional time, Ms. Candelaria says breakfast time is learning time in her classroom. Beyond that, the school breakfast her students eat in the classroom ensures they are ready to learn from her throughout the morning.

“Look at the child holistically,” she said. “Any child who doesn’t eat is going to have a rough start to their day. Kids, especially younger ones, don’t know how to tell you their emotions, or even whether they are hungry—it’s often, “My stomach hurts” not “I’m hungry” and they won’t perform. They just won’t!”

In Candelaria’s classroom, students pick up their breakfast and quietly take a seat where they stay as their teacher checks homework and checks in on them; she calls it “The Breakfast Club.”

“Some eat and read, and I check in on them—if it’s a Monday, how their weekend was—and I go around and monitor them as they eat breakfast. I have a PowerPoint going with the week’s sight words, so as they are eating they are reading and connecting, and becoming accountable. “Hey, those sight words were up all week!”

With a new school year stretching out ahead, Candelaria says BIC is a crucial educational tool at her disposal, and she looks forward to helping more students get the nutrition they need.

“As teachers we provide education, but we’re also given the opportunity to provide nutrition—what better way to connect with our students than with food? We get to know our students in a whole different way—hey, “Judy” likes apples but not bananas!—and you get to teach them how to open a milk, or use a utensil, and they can pass that on and teach a friend.”

Check out the video linked here on breakfast-in-the-classroom produced by Austin ISD. You can follow Austin ISD Nutrition Services on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and make sure you check back to Beyond Breakfast throughout SY 2017-18 as Partners for BIC help Austin ISD implement breakfast in the classroom in more classrooms!

Texas schools interested in applying for a Partners for Breakfast in the Classroom grant, visit our website: http://breakfastintheclassroom.org.

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