Conversation starters were provided but not particularly needed. Students at Plainview Middle School actually had no problem learning about each other during lunch on Friday as part of their mix-it-up day. Students sat together and talked about their favorite coaches, where they want to travel, and their attachment to cell phones.
All without their cell phones.
"Our kids are very cell phone oriented and social media oriented, and so we really wanted to promote those face-to-face conversations," said principal Tim Parham, adding that the mix-it-up day was started last year in an effort to get students out of their comfort zones and teach vital lessons in communication.
"We’re just trying to break up those cliques," he said. "You would think in a small school they know everyone, but they absolutely do not."
An eighth grade student and member of the National Honor Society led the conversation at each table. While sitting at one table near the end of the lunch period, seven students learned more about each other. One young man talked about his interest in computers, while another impressed lunchmates with his foreign language skills. All were engaged and seemed genuine with their interactions.
Just as quickly as the topics changed, the bell rang and students said goodbye to each other before disappearing into the crowd to return to class.
Mix-it-up day was part of Plainview Middle School’s anti-bullying month. School counselor Mary Lynn Wood said students also attended an assembly this week to teach students how to identify and respond to bullying, both in-person and online. "We take bullying very seriously at Plainview Middle School and are trying to be very proactive," she said.
Parham said that results of these mixers have been small and wants to have more mixers like the one held on Friday. "Our kids are so territorial that they’re going to sit at the same table every day," he said, adding that more frequent interactions between students from different backgrounds could have an impact on their interactions with anybody, including staff and their own parents.
"We want them communicating," Parham said.