The Phone Plate

Taylor Stockdale
I always smile when I see T-shirts made by student clubs or classes with terms and acronyms only Webb students would know such as Webb Day, Peccary Trip, CBO, ASB Ball, or Theme Nights. As of this fall, you can add another phrase to the list of Webb-only terminology...The Phone Plate.

The Phone Plate is a large colorful plate at the center of each dining table at formal dinner. Students and adults place their cell phones on the plate at the start of the meal, as a way of relinquishing their otherwise 24/7 devices so that good old-fashioned conversation can happen at the dinner table. The truth is I talk a good game about cell phone usage, but must admit that I break into a cold sweat when placing my phone on The Phone Plate. For better or worse (usually worse) the device has become a part of me, and while at dinner with the phone on the plate, I still get these phantom vibrations as though I have a call or text message, only to realize my phone is several feet away.

As usual students have been far more adaptable to this new practice, and we have fun at the table trying not to stare at the phones, each one occasionally making a noise and displaying a message. I’ve started hiding the plate, and it is amazing how quickly it becomes out-of-sight, out-of-mind. We start engaging in a totally different way. The power of conversation takes over, and we actually start looking in each other’s eyes and being fully present.

I see The Phone Plate as one small step for Webb, one giant leap for civilization. This past summer, you probably saw in the news coverage of the latest research on the psyche of today’s teenager, and how in this new age of hyper-connectivity and instant information, teenagers have never felt more disconnected, more anxious, tired and lost. Those of us in education aren’t surprised with the findings. It is estimated that by the time a person reaches the age of 17, he or she will have spent more than 60,000 hours in front of a screen of some type.

When I look back on my own childhood, I realize now that life was a process of revealed secrets, where I generally learned things at a point in time in my development when I was prepared to handle them. With older brothers, I certainly was exposed to an inappropriate R-Rated movie occasionally, but overall, how and when I received information as a child was controlled. Today’s teenager is growing up in an unfiltered world for the most part. And we as parents and educators have little to no idea what the implications are for this relatively new reality in terms of a teenager’s emotional development, cognitive development, and ability to think deeply and critically.

As I tell the students often, they are growing up in the most dynamic age in the history of civilization. They will have abilities to interact with the world and each other in ways we could only dream of. I fully embrace the power and scope of the digital age, and believe strongly that Webb must continue to provide the very best of a modern, future-ready education in order to prepare leaders for a global economy. But I also stress that we must not lose sight of the most powerful technology of all, and that is the power of human interaction and the ability to inspire.

As future leaders in industry, health care, politics, education and other fields, our students will not only need a complete mastery of technology, but also an ability to connect with people in person, to build consensus and to galvanize people toward a shared vision through deep and meaningful human interaction.

As so many schools get caught up in a new type of arms race in terms of technology, this more powerful and fundamental skill—human interaction—is being lost. The power of family, and community in terms of what they do to nurture the soul is timeless, and yet finding places that create this type of eye-to-eye interaction is becoming increasingly rare.

In the end, I believe what Webb does better than anything is offer a safe community in which our students are known and can make meaningful connections and contributions, and in which we can nurture and support their development as teenagers in all the right ways. The Phone Plate is one of many ways in which we do this. Chapel talks, Peccary trips, assemblies, dorm activities and many of our regular day-to-day activities are other ways we keep up the good fight in order to preserve our most important student experiences.

As you read through this magazine, you will see many exciting examples of Webb students, faculty, parents and alumni flourishing, and yet at the foundation of it all is a community that involves actual people interacting with one another, telling stories, laughing, generating ideas and thriving.

Read More News

Alumni News

List of 4 news stories.


Webb News

List of 4 news stories.

  • Autumn Rabe Richards ’97 and James Richards ’97 were married in Vivian Webb Chapel.

    Webb Sweethearts: Stories From Alumni Couples

    Danielle Gordon & Jessica Rice
    From high school sweethearts to alumni who were married in Vivian Webb Chapel, Webb has been the site of many romances over the years. Here are a few stories from alumni who met on Webb’s beautiful campus.
    Read More
  • Visual artist Rachel Lee Zheng '12

    Rachel Lee Zheng ’12 to Open First Solo Exhibition in NYC

    Jessica Rice ’12
    Using monofilament and LED spotlights, visual artist Rachel Lee Zheng ’12 creates large-scale installations that transform dark gallery spaces into meditative environments filled with lines and beams of color.
    Read More
  • The Week @ Webb - Together in January

    Scott Nichols
    The Week @ Webb is a periodic photojournal of events on and off Webb's campus. Did it feel like January lasted 31,000 days instead of just 31? I know that for me, it's important to spend as much time as I can with other people when life gets really busy. We all do better when we surround ourselves with friends and family and that's what I tried to capture in this latest gallery.
    Read More
  • Webb Completes CAIS/WASC Accreditation Process

    Taylor Stockdale
    Taking stock. This is how it begins—simply though completely. After more than a year of planning, gathering data, meeting, discussing, writing and rewriting—and after a four-day campus stay by our CAIS/WASC visiting committee (California Association of Independent Schools / Western Association of Schools and Colleges)—the evaluation work is done. 
    Read More

Sports Blog

List of 4 news stories.

The Webb Schools Boarding Preparatory School California Private School Financial Aid Paleontology College Placement Top Academics Faculty Ph.D Community Fun