Freedom at lunchtime! Students do what they want.

free time at lunchAt a Maryland government school, lunch time now provides a healthy break during the day. Administrators turned lunchtime into free time. All students have the same lunch hour, and students can do just about anything they please during the hour. Some just eat and relax, while others also play sports, hold student group meetings, and study for afternoon tests. Teachers and administrators use the time to meet one-on-one with students, reducing the need for early morning and after school sessions. Everyone benefits.

The new policy did not start without problems. At first, all students rushed to the cafeteria at the same time and faced long lines. Soon students learned that if their last class was far from the cafeteria, they would be better off going to the cafeteria a little later in the lunch hour.

Janitorial staff initially worried the new policy would introduce more work. The cafe manager didn’t think he could serve all students during one hour. Teachers were split; many immediately thought of ways to use the time to teach students in new ways. A group including teachers, students, janitorial staff, and administrators set out to resolve these problems and eventually devised an agreeable plan. For the problem of serving all students at once, the cafe set up satellite distribution points! Innovation at a government school!

Eight years later, the principal considers the single lunch hour a huge success. Officials from other schools regularly visit to learn about the policy.

It’s worth noting the principal sees fewer lunchtime fights because students are not confined to lunchroom. Why not extend this idea to schooling in general? There would be a whole lot less tension if teenagers could decide how to spend all their time, and whether to spend it at school or at work, and to decide who they want to spend time with. Those who show up at school, likely want to study the offered coursework, while those who choose jobs, want to work at a job.

People over 18 with jobs often will leave a job because of the culture and the people. For teenagers, they often have to study/work with the same people for four years during high school and often many years prior.

But progress is progress, and at least for one hour during the day, for 60 precious minutes, teenage students can decide for themselves how to spend their time.

Read this amazing article written by the principal about the policy (PDF).

Read a related article.

Take action! Propose this idea at your school! Print copies of the principal’s article and distribute it to administrators and teachers at your school. Explain the benefits of one lunchtime period for all students (and teachers):

  • fewer lunchtime supervisors needed
  • more time to spend with students one-on-one during the day, instead of before and after school
  • less stressed students
  • less talking during class (we hope) because students know they can speak to any of their friends during lunch (at most schools, students need to have the same lunch period to meet)
  • more student club participation
  • only clean cafeteria and grounds once, not after many different lunch periods
  • more time for students and teachers to meet
  • and more!

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