Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Meet Them Where They Are

   Frustration hit me more than once as the reality of regular restaurant habits seemed to be hindering progress. Let's face it, some families exist on take out. Whether by 'necessity' or convenience, it has become a habit many homes live by. I have discovered there are children who base their geographical and their food preferences on which restaurant they have frequented lately. The constant conversation and comparison was driving me crazy. How on earth do our healthy recipes compete with drive thru routines?    Habits are formed by routine and exposure; children pick them up quickly. In a desperate moment of prayer, I realized fighting this force was futile and negativity toward their family's habits was counterproductive to my purpose. I needed to meet them where they are and work from there.
   That morning brought to the table the 'comparison conversation'- I only eat here, I only like this place's food, I won't try it. It was time to meet them where they were. Instead of trying to steer the conversation away from restaurants and take out, I opened the door for it.
   Where do you like to go? It quickly became clear to me locations were chosen due to cultural marketing: kids eat free; the dollar meal, and buffet lines. In reality, families fall victim to the appearance of a cheap and convenient meal. This isn't a battle I am able to fight- after all, the students were not necessarily making the decisions where the family would eat. So what decisions were in the hands of the children? Where could influence be given?
   What do you order when you are there? It seemed the students generally had a voice in their food order. From here the idea was to guide their thinking toward not ignoring their routine favorite, but making them recognize the ability to improve/balance their meal. For example, one student loves the local Chinese buffet and their noodle dishes are his favorite. What vegetables do you see in the noodle dishes? Are there vegetables there you recognize from our cooking sessions? They hadn't thought of that. Their habit was so ingrained they hadn't realized many of the same things they refused in class were right there in reach.
   What can you add to your favorite choice to make it more balanced? There in lies the challenge. Can you eat your favorite and improve your choice? Sure. Have the green beans or the carrots- realize there are snow peas in the noodles or tomatoes on your burger. We met where they are and encouraged small, attainable steps.
   Did it make a difference? I believe it did. Whether they actually ate vegetables or not I can't say, but the relationship and interaction with the students changed immediately. Conversation, interaction and even participation the next few classes has been wonderful.
   Everyday I face the task and privilege of teaching amazing and challenging students, but may I never forget that while I am teaching them.. they are teaching me.

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