parent opinion

As an ex-teacher, I have a message for the woman at the centre of the "lunchbox note" drama.

Dear ‘Lunchbox’ Teacher,

I am sorry that this is how you are now publicly known, that your unwanted claim to fame has become the centre of a debate that was already highly contentious. And now you have inadvertently become its centre.

I am sure when you gave your feedback to the child’s mother that this outcome was the furthest from your mind. I am sure you were just trying to do your job.

You probably didn’t really want to get involved but didn’t really have much of a choice. But because of a lack of understanding and those too quick to judge, this is how it has panned out – unfairly and unjustly and very, very publicly.

This lunchbox tip will make your kids love you. Post continues after video. 

Video by MMC

But know this: as an ex-teacher myself I feel for you and I sympathise. You were just trying to do the right thing, and you were not only on the receiving end of an unnecessarily harsh and rude note from the student’s mother, but now you have been thrown into the spotlight by her decision to post it on social media, where your action is being debated around the country.

I want you to know that you don’t deserve this. But unfortunately, it seems to be part and parcel of being a teacher.

Why? Because as teachers we can’t ever get it right. Even when we are. Teachers are either viewed as the ever-complaining, always on holidays, overpaid educators that should just get on with their jobs and be happy with our ideal working situations…or we are not doing enough to prepare students for their future, failing them in numeracy and literacy, not prepping them for testing situations, and not teaching them “real-life skills.”

Then there are some that don’t think we support students enough wellbeing-wise – with their bullying complaints and friendship fallouts – or aren’t challenging those students with higher IQs enough and pushing them to their fullest potential.

And now, according to ‘Lunchbox Mum’, we should not be getting involved with what our students eat and we must definitely keep our opinions to ourselves because evidently, we share them too much (even if we are asked or mandated to) and this is not allowed.

Lunch box letter
The letter one mum sent to her child's teacher. Image: Facebook.

But here is a note for you, Lunchbox Mum, and your supporters.

The fact is all teachers at every level, in each sector, in ALL school types are being pulled in multiple directions at any one minute – from the government to the school board or council, school leadership, academic results figures, parents, students, new child safety guidelines, protection mandates, privacy protocols, OH&S stipulations, assessment directives and individual school values and expectations.

Some of which actually stipulate what can or can not be put into a lunch box, or what can or can not be eaten in a specific classroom or school. Sometimes this is because of allergy reasons and sometimes it's nutritional but either way, I am sorry (not sorry) to tell all the people who have been hating on this ‘Lunchbox Teacher’ - 99 per cent of the time these regulations and policies are beyond a teacher’s decision making.

Holly Wainwright and Jo Abi discuss lunchbox politics on This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.

The fact is, the majority of schools have some sort of healthy eating guideline or policy. Some are stricter than others, but from the wider push for healthy eating at schools, there is a very clear directive and expectation for schools to follow this, and this starts from external guidelines and filters down to those who are with the students the most - their teachers.

A quick Google search reiterates this. There are healthy lunchbox or healthy canteen guidelines everywhere. On the Victorian government website, you can even find a ‘lunchbox policy’. NSW has something similar, although they suggest theirs are ‘ideas’ rather than a ‘policy.’

The point is, teachers are simply asked to enforce these ideas. They are simply trying to do their job.

But simple, evidently, it is not. Because now we're being complained about for being too nosy and too involved with our students.

Apparently, this is worthy of sending a nasty note to the teacher who is trying to do their best for your child, posting it online and publicly shaming her.

But I guess you’re right - teachers can never get it right. And that isn’t because they don’t try, it's because of actions like this that make it impossible for them.

An understanding parent and ex-teacher.

Shona Hendley, ‘Mother of Cats, Goats and Humans’ is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is also a passionate animal advocate. You can follow her on Instagram @shonamarion