Fish on Fridays.

During second period, everyday, like a call to prayer, are the morning announcements.

Having first period as my planning time this year means that by the time second period starts, that’s my first class of the day, and when the show really begins. The lunch menu is dutifully announced, and although I would much prefer to hear “Today’s lunch choices are a filet mignon with a mushroom wine sauce, and lemon meringue pie, alas, these are never the offerings. Today is Friday. There will be a fillet-of-fish sandwich (was that something that swam in the ocean at one point?) and clam chowder.

Now, I like really good clam chowder. This is not that. It’s gummy, gluey, and gooey.

But I’m not complaining about the soup: I am remarking on the fact that public school cafeterias still serve fish on Fridays, a tradition from my elementary school days (insert, Mrs. Love, you look like you’re 27! —thank you my silly and well-meaning students, thank you…) While being served  fish on Fridays, and I hated “fish” back then, not knowing what dungeness or Maryland crab feasts meant, or the ecstasy of lobster tails, shrimp, mahi mahi, etc., I asked my parents, “Why did the cafeteria serve fish on every single blazing Friday?” “It’s because Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays.”

I’m not really sure to this day what we “were,” — I have a baptismal certificate from the Methodist church, and my paternal grandfather scoffed at me when I thought of changing to Episcopalian (my humble grandfather thought it was for “rich people”).  I know the Catholic traditions seemed completely mystfying at the time, and it wasn’t until college where a very dear friend took me to mass, where I awkwardly sat out the wine/wafer communion phase, that I had any exposure to this brand of faith.

Still really didn’t explain the fish thing.

Something about sacrifice, giving up something better as a punishment, etc. As far as I could tell, I was being forced to sacrifice and was being punished, too. Unfair.

Fast forward: What do we expect our students to compromise on, to ‘give up?’

Budgets are slashed. Nutrition is questionable. Resources are frayed.  And I’m not really sure why I’m writing about clam chowder. Is it a metaphor for ancient, antiquated school traditions that have no real or current relevance in our country today? What hold-overs do we live under that are unseen to us and to our students? (Trust me — they never once questioned why there is clam chowder and fish sandwiches every single Friday.)

I don’t know. It just struck me as odd, to honor one faith in a serving of fish and not necessarily others. Yes, there are “vegetarian” choices for those students whose faiths prevent them from eating anything with a face or family. Tolerance and cultural demands seem as distant as my plastic lunch tray with fish, too.

Something else that sparked my interest: “How to Get Into a Crowded High School?”

And the simple question: Why not make all schools as good as Garfield goes unanswered.

That’s tough to swallow.