In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, you might remember, Hermione had a time-turner that basically let her be two places at once — so she could take even more classes.
That would be so convenient, especially during passing time in a public high school.
What are teachers expected to do during this frantic 5-7 minutes? Here’s what some fellow teachers have told me:
- Monitor the hallway to prevent bullying, fights, and phone use (and enforce the dress code)
- Monitor nearby student bathrooms to catch students vaping and smoking weed
- Monitor outside doors to make sure they are not propped open
- Greet every student by name at the door
- Check email for important messages
- Have the next class ready to start at the bell
Yes, they’re expected to do them all. Simultaneously. And if the teacher needs a bathroom break or drink of water? Forget it.
Administrators do realize this is not all possible, right? And they do realize that when you give people a list of impossible tasks, they often respond by doing none of them? Freezing is a natural response to cognitive overload.
It’s fair to say most teachers I know spend their precious passing time the same way I do:
- Wrapping up last hour — organizing exit slips and late work, answering student questions and resetting any technology
- Getting ready for next hour — especially if it’s a different prep (or, God forbid, in a different room)
- Rushing to the hallway for 1-2 minutes to make sure nothing bad is happening out there — and trying to greet the next kids coming in
Everything on the list above — from preventing bullying and vaping to greeting kids at the door — is unquestionably a good idea. But how can anyone expect teachers to do it all and be ready to teach?
We need to take a collective deep breath and apply some design thinking.
Our problem: Too many demands on teachers during passing time.
Potential solutions to test?
Here’s one: Teachers in the same hallway could divide up duties, so that every hour, someone is passing through the bathrooms, while someone else is monitoring the hall and a third adult is checking the outside doors. This is much more realistic than telling everyone to do all three.
Another idea: Prioritize just one of these items. If you want teachers to greet students — which research shows helps build strong relationships — ask them to do that. And only that. Assign administrators, counselors, deans, even student leaders to take on the other monitoring duties.
And one more: Explain the needs to your faculty, and ask them to figure out the best way to take on the obligations in their department or hallway. Make the problem manageable, and caring adults will do their best to solve it.
Most of all: Be thoughtful. When bosses (in any workplace) pile on expectation after expectation, oblivious to the impossibility of actually doing all that is asked, the boss loses credibility and the work remains undone.
That doesn’t help anyone, especially our students.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Martha Rush is a teacher, blogger, author and speaker. Visit NeverBore.org or like the NeverBore LLC Facebook group for more information. @MarthaSRush #beatboredom