Is a seven-period, no-phone Minnehaha working?
Things have looked different this school year. No more craned heads in the campus room. No more silent lunches. No more awkward glances at the floor in the middle of class. There’s one major reason for this apparent change at Minnehaha Academy. No more phones.
In August, the school announced that it would be implementing more restrictive rules regarding phone use throughout the school day. This decision was a result of general agreement that excessive phone use at school was leading to a distracted classroom environment and more disconnected student body. The main change outlined in the policy was that students would no longer be able to carry their phones with them throughout the school day. Instead, teachers would be required to gather their students’ phones at the beginning of the day and then give them back at the 2:50 bell. A key motive behind this policy change was to cultivate a more connected and involved school environment, while also encouraging focused learning in the classroom.
Overall, this plan has been carried out with varying levels of compliance but overall achieved the main issues it set out to fix. In response to the new rules, many students have decided to accept the change and put their phones in their first-hour teacher’s designated phone box each morning. Others have chosen to simply leave their phone in their car for the entirety of the school day.
However, while there has been widespread buy-in from the student body, some students have chosen to discreetly oppose the policy and keep their phones with them throughout the day, whether that entails claiming that their phone is “in their car” or bringing a burner phone to school. While the student’s intention behind this behavior is to have more time with their phone, the opportunities to use said phone are severely limited because of the enforcement of the new policy.
For instance, even if a student holds onto their phone they can’t check it in the halls or during class because teachers and students alike are aware of the new restrictions and would prohibit such efforts. This considered, the new phone rules do a sufficient job of limiting phone use and general distraction, actively encouraging bonding between students and creating a more attentive classroom environment.
Connected to the updated phone policy, the school chose to adopt a seven-period schedule for the 2022-2023 school year and the foreseeable future. This new schedule was initially proposed as a return to normality after several years of unavoidable disruption caused by the explosion in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic. The seven-period day garnered support from teachers who believed that it was more beneficial for their students to have more checkpoints and meeting times throughout the week. For instance, the new schedule makes way for the traditional day which adds an extra class per subject each week. This way teachers can get through more material and have more time to help students understand certain concepts.
Some students may argue that the universal free period was better than the new, activity-time focused schedule that eliminates the guaranteed free hour. However, before this change, many students spent their free periods on their phones or left school entirely. Free periods were simply a time to take a break from the typical cycle of the school day, and while they were certainly enjoyable, the new schedule makes way for plenty of free time and actively fosters engagement. The new seven-period school day allows for an extended club time on Wednesdays and Fridays in which students can participate in intramural sports, as well as specific clubs. This extra time in the middle of the day pairs perfectly with the new phone rules because students are actively encouraged to participate in enriching activities, instead of isolating themselves by being on their phones. Overall, this is extremely positive for the Minnehaha community and has led to an increased sense of belonging and school spirit.
Initially, the new phone policy and schedule switch were met with uncertainty and even anger from the student body. However, both changes have created a more exuberant and tight-knit community, as well as a more focused classroom environment. As the school year continues to roll on, a phone-less, seven-period Minnehaha Academy seems to be a great call for all.