For as long as anyone can remember, the school cafeteria has been a noisy hub of students socializing while they eat their lunches. And for just as long, teachers and administration have collaborated on how to reduce the noise level. Little to no success has been achieved in this realm. I work the lunchroom for a half hour every school day and I wonder why we want the students to be quiet during lunch.
Students are not allowed to talk while their teachers are talking in class and are allowed only structured talk during center times with the aim of accomplishing a task. Why not let the kids cut loose during lunch. We, as teachers, get to talk with our friends in the teachers’ lounge. Why shouldn’t the students have the same break?
I am aware that the noise level does rise if left unchecked. My school has a universal sign, that is even mentioned in the morning show, to let the students know they are being too loud. The lights go out until the noise subsides. The students know that they are either too loud or that an important announcement has to take place that could impact their safety. When our lights go out, you can hear a pin drop.
I’ve seen this tried at other schools and wondered why it did not work. It was that the students were not trained or oriented to it. It was a random person’s decision to turn the lights off when they’d had enough. I believe the key is the orientation to the practice. All the students in my school know what it means. It is not overused to lose credibility and it is supported by administration. Teachers use it in their classes as well.
In either case, if we can regulate the sound in the cafeteria, why not let the students have fun for a half hour? As long as they are not talking or yelling across tables and the cafeteria itself, where is the harm? If you put it into perspective, lunch duty is a small diversion that makes a teacher appreciate the more quiet collaboration that goes on in the classroom.