Posted in School life
School lunches are busy, and that’s just getting them made and packed (and actually taken) in the morning. School lunch breaks, as a student can be something you look forward to all morning or something you dread depending how your peer relationships are going.
SU QLD chaplains around the state run lunch programs that give students a safe place to spend their lunch hours. A space providing a range of activities to choose from and creating an atmosphere of acceptance that allows social skill building to be encouraged.
Chaplains are known for their open house policy to their rooms unless they are needed out in the school community. We visited Chappy Stephanie Kennedy at Wellers Hill State School, who has been a chaplain for eight years, to provide you with a look into her Chappy Lunchroom.
“It’s a room with lots of kids, a big mess, coming and going, it’s just great. Sometimes I put on a bit of music and they begin to dance,” says Chappy Stephanie.
The room is bright, happy, appealing but comfortable at the same time – a room for all ages.
Once the bell rings the room begins to fill with students running to the extremities of the space to get their hands on their favourite activity be it magnets, puppets or Lego. It then organically evolves from there.
“I do not try to micromanage it, I do try to keep order, which can be a losing battle on the days that resemble Grand Central Station at peak hour. I will however keep any eye out for students who are not doing an activity and will strike up a conversation. For example, if I know the student is a really good drawer I will provide them with paper and crayons and off they go”, says Chappy Stephanie. “Once this room became available the potential for having more and more activities in here at lunchtime grew. It’s very central and accessible and the kids know they can get a free sticker.”
The students refer to the lunchroom as the sticker shop and to Chappy Stephanie as the sticker lady. Every one who attends receives a free sticker. The privilege of giving out the stickers is so popular it books out two or three weeks in advance.
Some students attend Chappy Lunchroom to solely have a heap of fun. For other students who are having a bit of trouble in the playground know it as a safe place to come hang out.
“It’s often the kids who are not connecting well in the playground that come in. If I see them come in regularly on their own alarm bells start to ring and I look for opportunities to talk to them about what is happening with them and their friends and try and connect them again – either in here or in a different way,” says Chappy Stephanie.
“There is usually so much happening in this room that I try to sit over on the far wall to speak with these kids. They know that they can do that if they want to talk through a serious friendship issue,” says Chappy Stephanie.
Chaplain Stephanie finds this is how she gets to know the kids and how they get to know her. It is a great relationship builder. “When they have been to my room for no particular reason but to check it out, later on when they do have an issue it’s not so much of a big deal coming to the chaplaincy room as they have already been here and know I’m not a hard person to talk to. It becomes familiar territory,” says Chappy Stephanie.
Sometimes the same kids will come for a period, a week or two then they will find their place back out there in the playground. For students experiencing some problems they will come for the period they are dealing with these, perhaps to have a talk about some strategies. Then they will go out and try some strategies and come back and tell me whether they worked.
“Recently a student came in looking really sad. I asked if she was OK and she burst into tears,” Chappy Stephanie shares. “She told me that her best friend now had another best friend and that she felt very lonely. I empathised with her and explained that this often happens at school – friendships chop and change, and that it could actually be helpful to widen her circle. We started to write a list of the kids whom she liked, and as we did so, a smile started to reappear as she realised she wasn’t so alone after all. Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear!
“I think the teachers appreciate the lunchroom, if any of them are walking past and have a look there’s such a buzz coming out of the room that you will often see them walking past with a smile on their face probably thinking ‘I’m glad that’s her and not me’,” says Chappy Stephanie.
In between puppet battles, falling towers and being impressed by a submarine made out of magnets alone, we were able to ask the students why they come into the lunchroom.
I like Chappy’s lunchroom because it’s always really fun and safe to come to ~ Jordan
There are always lots of fun things to do. I started coming in Grade 1 when one of my friends introduced me, I’m now in Grade 5 ~ Lauren
It is just always fun and safe ~ Eva
Because when you have any problem you can come to Mrs Kennedy and she will help you. If your being bullied you can come into a safe place and Mrs Kennedy will be able to help ~ Annabel
There so many different styles of lunchrooms run by our chaplains throughout Queensland. Rooms tailored to meet the needs of each individual school community.