Weedsport’s cafeteria is not a place of quiet structure, where each student is in their perfect place, eating primly as if they’re in a class to learn and exhibit royal manners. It is loud and lively, a room which echoes with laughter, drama and the pupils of Weedsport Junior-Senior High. The lunchroom bridges the divide of different grades or separate classes. It is one of the only places in which students may thrive with a semi-unstructured air, and many students drop other classes or obstacles in order to have a period lunching in the cafeteria and having fun with their friends.
“A lot of my friends that I have lunch with, I don’t have any other classes with. So it’s a really good get together to catch up with them every day,” Sophomore Alanna Golden explains.
The lasting question remains, however: does this carnival of sound ramp up students for the rest of the day, and leave them distracted in their next classes?
“I’m wild, most definitely. We’re always crazy and full of energy at lunch, and then after lunch I’m just in a good mood and I want it to keep going.” Golden goes on, answering the question. Students ramp themselves up during their lunch periods and want that excitement and energy to go on for the rest of the day. But shifting from loose rules to a definitive structure within their classes can be jarring and difficult to adjust to. “I think because their time is not as structured, there are some students that get a little more wound up than they otherwise would.” Mr. Graziano, Weedsport math teacher and lunch monitor explains about his time watching students in the cafeteria.
On a different branch within the same debate, some students openly avoid the lunchroom due to the desire to escape the exceeding sound that emanates from it. “It’s loud,” School librarian, Ms. Speer, explains. “It’s crowded, it’s not always easy for whoever is in there with you to see everything that’s going on, so I’m certain it doesn’t always feel like a safe space.” For students who may become overwhelmed or distracted in the cafeteria, or for those without friends in their lunch, the library can be a calm, quiet alternative to the otherwise excessive lunch room. “There are tables and space, and it’s fine with me if people want to eat here. They can get work done, anything they need.”
The library can always be a good alternative for people who don’t care to eat in the lunchroom. “If I don’t like to eat in the cafeteria, in the rare times that I do, I always go to the library, just because it’s quiet and there’s a lot of space, and Ms. Speer doesn’t really mind if we eat there. Sometimes the cafeteria gets too loud, and a lot of drama can go down there, too.” Alanna continues, bringing up another factor of the lunchroom; the large population of students brings along the certainty of rumors and complications when it comes to events that have gone on around the school. Many students may find that as a second reason to avoid the lunchroom, in the desire to not be swept up inside those rumors, or listen to them be spread.
But the cafeteria has always had its upsides, far more numerous than the downsides. “I do love spending my lunch with all my friends, and the kids in grades above and below who I don’t have classes with,” Golden assures. The time spent bridging the gaps of grades leads to stronger bonds between younger and older students and a sense of togetherness within the people who eat together. It also encourages destressing from classes which might be more taxing and can be a break between times spent strictly filling our brains with difficult concepts or boring ourselves as we take notes.
“I’m a big advocate that you all need a break during the course of your day.” Ms. Speer continues. “Asking you to sit and be quiet and listen all day, nobody is capable of doing that.”
“Do I think that there should be some unstructured time? Absolutely,” Mr. Graziano agreed. “Kids are learning how to handle both structured and unstructured time, and lunch provides a nice break.”
The lunchroom is a lively place, bordering on chaotic and standing on the edge of excessive. For some students, it is too loud, too bright, too filled with drama and cliques. For others, the high energy brings along exactly what they’ve been lacking throughout the day; excitement, humor, and companionship. But, whether you hate the noise or live for it, each of us loves something that is associated with the cafeteria. Whether it be the loose and relaxed rules, the sociality, or just the fact that it means it’s finally time for lunch, it brings along a healthy dose of relief within the school day.
“It’s just a fun place to be,” Golden explains. “It’s nice to have a place that is the student’s a little bit more than the teacher’s.”