The spaces in between at Orbit High: an analysis of teenage behavior during breaks at school
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Most public schools in the United States were designed and built in the second half of the last century. Their buildings typically consist of classrooms and narrow, locker-lined hallways. The former clearly belong to the teachers and best support lecturestyle instruction. The latter are the locations for social interaction between students during their breaks. Many educators, administrators, and researchers worry about teenage behavior in high schools. Student peer culture is commonly understood as problematic. In response, break times typically are minimized, supervision routines are designed to be seamless, and educational policies regulate disciplinary institutional responses to acts of violence between students. This research study investigates teenagers' break behavior in a contemporary school building that is unlike the institutional school buildings most current educators are used to and experience as "normal". The ethnographic case examines the relationships between high school student break behavior, local disciplinary practices, and a school building designed to blur the boundaries between lounge-like social spaces and informal educational spaces. Over the course of six months, the researcher spent 42 school days with Orbit High's teenagers in the spaces in between. Primary sources of data were field notes, log entries, behavioral maps, and open-ended interviews with 24 purposefully chosen participants.