When a principal in Iowa saw the number of students spending their lunch hours with their faces in their phones, she knew she needed to do something about it. Janet Behrens, principal of Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School, was disheartened by how many of the students in her school spent their lunch hour on social media rather than on socialization — so she decided to make a change.
Principal Behrens created a lunchroom policy requiring all students to leave their phones behind during Friday lunches and sit at a table with students they may not already know. During Friday lunches, upon entering the cafeteria kids pick a color-coded card that indicates which lunch table they will be sitting at that day. Each table is stocked with ideas for conversation starters, in case students have trouble thinking of things to talk about with kids they might not know.
The experiment, aimed at getting kids to meet new people and stop looking at their phones, seems to be working. After taking a few weeks to adjust to the new program, students are reporting that kids are kinder to each other and they actually look forward to Friday lunch hour. In the words of Sahara Kanke, a ninth grader at the school, she didn’t want to participate at first but now states, “I think it’s fun, I like doing it. People are more nice to each other now because they got to know each other at lunch.”
Behrens told KCRG News that she hopes the new policy will benefit her students. “Every little thing helps in this day and age with all of the things that you have going on, all the pressures that they have with social media, it’s nice to see them take a break from all that.”
Tonya Corbitt, Assistant Principal of North Farmington High School in Michigan, is very interested in the changes this could bring to a high school. “This program would cause a major paradigm shift for most teenagers. For many, the phone is an extension of their hand.” But she’s also interested in the realities that may come along with it. “I would be interested to see how the school handles situations where the student refuses to follow the phone policy.”
Teenagers are resistant to change just like the rest of us. Principal Behrens tried a new approach to getting her students to take a break from their phones and connect with each other, and it seems to be working. If more schools follow suit and their students are just as receptive, high schoolers everywhere will be teaching us a thing or two about putting down our phones and meeting new people.