Free lunch hour

Instead of  30 minutes stuck in the cafeteria, Patuxent High (Maryland) students get a free hour — anywhere in the school — for lunch, clubs, tutoring or relaxing, reports the Washington Post.

. . . the middle-of-the-day burst of freedom has increased club participation, taught time management skills and given stressed-out students time to chill.

Previously, students needing extra help had to arrive early in the morning or stay after school. Often, that meant they didn’t get the help they needed, (Principal Nancy) Highsmith said.

Now teachers use the first or second half of the hour-long lunch break to stage interventions. They teach, tutor and mentor students who receive low scores on national or state standardized tests, fail classes required for graduation or would simply benefit from individual attention.

At Blake High School in Silver Spring, Principal Carole Goodman gives students a 50-minute free lunch period.

For more than eight years, Blake students have been allowed to eat anywhere, meet with clubs, catch up on work, retake tests and even skateboard in the parking lot.

If teachers are tutoring students during the lunch hour, do they get any free lunch time for themselves?

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  1. “…do they get any free lunch time for themselves?”

    Lesson One of being a teacher is that you will no longer have any bodily, intellectual, or emotional/spiritual needs or functions.

    Think I’m kidding?

    I once had a day with:
    – Early arrival for parent conference
    – lost planning period for absent colleague
    – lunch duty – that took up the entire period

    I was 5 minutes late for the lunch duty that day, and was reprimanded by the Ass. Principal (yeah, I abbreviated that correctly) for my tardy appearance. I told her I had been in the 1 bathroom (my ONLY bathroom that day – I was bursting) – had to wait my turn – and was told that, as a teacher, I had responsibilities and needed to fulfill them.

    I didn’t kill her – it would have been justified homicide. No jury would convict me, given the facts.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    We had ‘open lunch’ when I was in High School–mostly b/c the cafeteria was too small to seat even a fraction of the student body! It was a full period and we used it for all sorts of things (computer projects, frizbee in the courtyard, trips for pizza, making up tests)

    It was wonderful…I feel sorry for kids who have to get through the lunch line and eat in under 20 minutes…. long lunches are definitly the way to go, even if it means a longer day!

  3. Margo/Mom says:

    Linda–isn’t there some way that we can have both? That is, a schedule that makes sense for kids and time for teachers to eat and go to the bathroom?

    I have in fact been in schools that paid as little attention to the bodily needs of students. Time between classes had been cut to two minutes and lunch to 20 (less the amount of time that it took for two groups of eaters to be exchanged and to go through the lunch line). The remaining 20 minutes they were herded into the gym–where there were also two gym classes meeting.

    The union responds in ways that are just about as limiting: prescribing the amount of time a teacher must have, when it must occur, when it cannot occur. It continually amazes me that schools never seem to think in any planful way about how to meet with parents–beyond the cattle call conference night (compensated by a day off from regular classes). Our district even had a mandated common planning time for all teachers during first period one year (budget cuts resulted in a shorter school day for students–but teachers maintained the same schedule). We still had one teacher who NEVER attended any of several IEP meetings that were scheduled during that period. Meeting with parents is a part of the job–not an extra tack-on.

  4. “Now teachers use the first or second half of the hour-long lunch break to stage interventions.”

    I took this to mean the teachers would use the second or first half of their lunches for lunch. Half hour to eat and a half hour for intervention. Seems fair to me.

  5. When I interned as a diagnostician, several colleagues asked if I would miss the classroom. I told them certainly, but I get an hour for lunch, and can go anywhere I want.

    I think 3 of them enrolled for grad school that day.

  6. We have something similar at my school, which is still in transition since last year. Half an hour for tutoring (for students failing classes – others get the full hour which alleviates crowding in the cafeteria), half an hour for lunch (for teachers and failing students). We don’t have much “club” action just yet, but I’m hoping it will develop soon. (Some clubs have begun to meet during this time.)

    I like it because too many of my students can’t attend tutoring before or after school – rural district. It’s also a time for students who aren’t failing to come and check in with me about their grades and missing assignments. My only job is to organize my twenty “homeroom” students based on their progress reports and send them off to the teachers they need to see (I use a sign-out list) – then to email the homeroom teachers of students I need to see and get them in there with me.

    Parental support for this is excellent. In my area, the parent choice WAS to a) drop their kid off at 6:30 or so, so as to make an 8:00 tutoring, or b) make their kid wait until 6:30 or so at night to be picked up from a 4:15 tutoring. In my rural area, this midday tutoring solves so many problems.

  7. Free time for lunch. Shirley, you jest! I didn’t even get to pee until 1 today.

  8. I love this idea! I am going to email me admin right now with it. It solves all kinds of problems. Thanks Joanne!

  9. devilbunny says:

    My high school had a 25-minute “Activity Period” between 2nd and 3rd periods; clubs met, occasional tutoring sessions were had, but otherwise they were free time. Lunch was during a long 3rd (jr high) or a long 4th (sr high) period; nominally there were 25 minutes for lunch. My senior year, my lunch class had only 9 students, so we petitioned our teacher to let us do the whole class in 40 or 45 minutes (instead of 50) and let us eat lunch at the end. We were usually successful.

  10. In theory this sounds like a wonderful idea, but there has to be a great deal of support from administration to ensure that students are where they should be. I was at a school with close to 2500 students and without proper supervision and activities, many students found “non-positive” activities. We had a 50 minute lunch period with 600 students in a common area supervised by 4 teachers. This was the most common time for fights and altercations to occur. I think that for many students and teachers this time could be used very productively, but a clear understanding of consequences for inappropriate behavior must be established early in the process.

  11. Margo/Mom says:

    “We had a 50 minute lunch period with 600 students in a common area supervised by 4 teachers. This was the most common time for fights and altercations to occur. I think that for many students and teachers this time could be used very productively, but a clear understanding of consequences for inappropriate behavior must be established early in the process.”

    Actually, in my experience, it is easier to supervise when there are clear activities available along with the expectations. I would suggest that 600 students under the “supervision” of 4 adults is ludicrous, bordering on neglect. Locally, there was a school that had a lock-down as a result of a fight that started in the cafeteria. I know that the consideration given to cafeteria supervision in our district is minimal (and some kids flee the chaos–hiding out in safer parts of the building and never eating). However, on a newspaper blog, responses to the situation suggested a strong belief that the situation was a moral one–parents don’t teach kids the right behavior. Some called the kids thugs or animals. Of course, this is an urban district–but we HAVE to change these situations and attitudes if there is to be any hope at all of improving the state of education.

  12. Andrew Bell says:

    I guess I’m ambivalent about the lunchtime thing, but this does bring up an obvious problem – schools are understaffed or staffing is poorly organized or both.

    Why shouldn’t teachers get a real lunch? Why shouldn’t they be able to take a day off without doing the hard work (planning) so that someone else has it easy? Why can’t teachers go to the bathroom when they need? Why can’t teachers have adequate time to observe and share with other teachers? This is silliness.

    2500 kids in a school sounds like silliness too. Who thought that would be a good idea?

  13. Mark Roulo says:

    “2500 kids in a school sounds like silliness too. Who thought that would be a good idea?”

    Start with “A New School for the Cities” (1970) by Meeker and Weiler.

    James Bryant Conant was also pitching large high schools in the 1950s …

    Back then, large schools were considered progressive …

    -Mark Roulo

  14. I’m surprised that this is apparently such an unusual concept that a newspaper felt it was newsworthy. Is it a regional thing? I attended high school in the Bay Area, and the idea of being figuratively locked in a cafeteria for lunch is laughable. The only time I remember HAVING to eat lunch at the lunch table was back in elementary school.

    My high school had 2000+ students. There was one lunch period for all of us, and we were all over the place. I don’t know anybody who ate in the actual cafeteria. And yeah, you could do all the other stuff mentioned in the article, too — go to clubs, sleep, catch up on work, etc. The only thing I think that was verboten was skateboarding, although I don’t know that for sure.

    I guess I’m just having a hard time thinking of this as anything unusual. Then again, I did attend a high school where the students weren’t especially rowdy, or you had to worry about fights breaking out all the time. I don’t recall seeing too many teachers out patrolling the campus during lunch. Maybe I just attended a school filled with goody two shoes.


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