“A Day In The Life: How The Tomato Method Can Make You Insanely Productive,” by Dawn Gernhardt

Nov 10th, 2021 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Schools implement a dizzying assortment of district-mandated procedures for teachers and students: No Child Left Behind, 21st Century initiatives, and The Common Core. The latest rollout: The Tomato Method. How’s it going? Let’s find out.

One inspired teacher, overwhelmed with work-life imbalance, instituted The Tomato Method not only in her middle school classroom but throughout every aspect of life. Here’s her day to remember.

Day In The Life reporter and crew met with teacher, mom, and wife, Mrs. Byrna Ana Peele. She’s using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to help her be more productive and efficient with her minutes, hours, and seconds. We asked her, “What’s the Tomato Method and how does it work?”

“I’ll show you. To answer, I’ll need,” Mrs. Peele said while counting seconds and calculated, “if one tomato equals thirty minutes, my morning at work should amount to four tomatoes.”

As a previously relaxed Mrs. Peele set the knob, her nostrils flared under the high-efficiency, time-management pressure.

“I untangled the vine of my complicated school day and home life,” Mrs. Peele said as her pupils dilated. “Thanks to setting micro-goals and achieving them through evenly paced and measured steps. Now my crisp magnetic tomato-shaped cooking timer comes with me everywhere and keeps me on task.”

Without boundaries, our crew followed her in Orwellian style. People impacted by Mrs. Peele’s newly implemented hyper-efficient, productive, and controlled way of life weighed in on the changes, too.

Morning: Work—Sisyphean Heights Middle School

“Now, everything in my classroom agenda is divided into and counted by tomato time wedges,” said Mrs. Peele with a tic in her eyebrow.

“How do you manage to get things done within tight time constraints? Let’s say your students’ revisions take longer than anticipated? Do you add more time?”

“NEVER,” she balked, her forehead folded into college-ruled lines. “We’re all done with the task when the timer sounds. Period. End of story! Standardized tests are outdated. I know if they’re progressing or falling behind. I don’t need grades or scores to inform my hothouse style of teaching. Everything thrives in a greenhouse.”

On the board and verbally, she reviewed the morning before the morning bell rang. Completely obedient, none of the seventh-graders sniffed, poked, or giggled. You could have heard a tomato drop.

  • Rollcall (⅛ tomato)
  • Reading a sample paragraph (½ a tomato)
  • Grammar in the paragraph (½ tomato)
  • Spelling and vocabulary in the paragraph (½ tomato)
  • Writing a draft and revising the paragraph (2 tomatoes)
  • Transition (⅛ tomato)
  • Break (¼ tomato)


= 4 tomatoes

As promised, the shrill timer alarm blared for each bullet, and Mrs. Peele flowed through her schedule like balsamic vinaigrette. She stopped the roll call after the buzzer and marked the remaining students absent. Followed by calling on Saraque in the back row, who lisped through Beowulf. Everyone took a collective breath of relief when the tomato alarm sounded, stopping the student mid-word. And on until Mrs. Peele’s designated tomato alarm. The students ran the halls empty courtyard unsupervised because the school wasn’t on bell-schedule break during Mrs. Peele’s tomato method break.

“Thanks to the ripe tomato method,” Mrs. Peele beamed, “I’ll end my school year early. I don’t know about the rest of the teachers, but my class will be done two weeks into May! No lock-step, here.”

In the teacher’s lounge, a few of her colleagues chimed in. “When we suggested a sabbatical and meditation, she set a timer, laughed for twenty seconds, cried for twenty seconds, then nodded, saying, ‘Sure, I can schedule meditation in my day, if I combine.’ Then she smacked her palm against her forehead shouting, ‘Think!’ and added, ‘Driving! Mediation will be every mile and pothole.’”

The students were ecstatic and raved, “Mrs. Peele should be nominated as teacher of the year.” The principal, however, wouldn’t talk to us without the union rep and district office present—something about the bursting file for Mrs. Peele’s recent disciplinary actions.

Afternoon: Home—With children Apple Peele (15), Bea Ana Peele (10), and Tate R. Peele (8)

“By Spring Break, I’ve lost all semblance of a normal life. Frazzled at home, met with kids’ disjointed homework, jumble of snacking, texting, chores, sports, their pets, friends—it was chaos! Until now.”

The Peele family home smelled saucy, looked dusty, and threatened hoarding tendencies. Mrs. Peele wrote and read the home agenda to her children from the kitchen chalkboard. The youngest, Tate, called out to us, saying, “My mommy hugs me a lot lately—and smells like spaghetti.” Mrs. Peele patted his head and didn’t miss a beat.

  • Grading my students’ work and reviewing my children’s grades and assignments. (3 tomatoes)
  • Laundry, cooking (with alcoholic vanilla and copious wine-based stock reductions), and returned emails and phone calls to concerned parents. (2 tomatoes)
  • Searching social media for answers about how other people make it look so easy. (3 tomatoes)
  • Crying in bathroom, scrubbing soap scum, drinking alcoholic mouthwash. (2 tomatoes)


= 10 tomatoes

“How do you feel about your mom’s new productivity model?” we asked them.

“I told our school psychologist tomatoes are fruit not veggies because of the seeds,” said Bea Ana with a grin. “And about how I named all of the tomatoes lining our kitchen counters. The vines only scare me at night,” she added quickly, then fled home on her red bike.

Refusing to be interviewed, the eldest, Apple, glared on her way upstairs. “My mom yanks us off the field when the timer goes off. Our coaches demoted us all to benchwarmers. I’m getting emancipated.”

Evening Home—With Mr. K. Michael Peele (Mrs. Peele’s husband of twenty years)

Mr. and Mrs. Peele weren’t in the same room together much, so we listened and nodded as Mrs. Peele whispered the details of their nighttime agenda.

  • Sex, showering, changing sheets (½ tomato)
  • Video call with Child Protective Services. Consult with divorce attorney from the car. (1 tomato)
  • Alternating online marriage counseling or codependency support group. Take anti-anxiety, depression, hypertension, and sleep medications. (1 tomato)


= 2.5 tomatoes

“How do you feel about your wife’s new productivity model?” we asked him.

“What wife?” Mr. Peele said while grabbing his vape and heading to the porch. “It’s rotten. She hasn’t orga—nized her…closet forever. With the buzzers and red sauce, now I can’t get an erect—spine until the buzzer sounds. Totally normal, right?” He puffed a tomato-shaped cloud of smoke and shut his eyes.

When we pressed Mrs. Peele about the impact of her high productivity lifestyle, she said, “I’ll set my timer to think about your comment while dreaming and will text you the answer before work.”

We bid farewell to the efficient and innovative Mrs. Peele as she was chanting while winding her timer and saying, “just keep twisting and twisting and twisting.”


Dawn Gernhardt is a writer living in southern California. Her satire is published in Wry Times, Funny-ish, and The Haven. She’s currently working on a novel and her

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