When the last bell rings signaling the end of the school day, I am in the safety of my classroom grading, tidying up, or preparing to meet with a student. The sixth grade hallway just outside our classroom door, is a a loud blur of activity, with lockers smashing open and then shut, books being flung into backpacks, and kids racing for the exit doors. Within ten minutes, peace and stillness descends upon the building…every ounce of energy seems to have flown out the doors with those kids.
Last Thursday, I found myself on the other side of the school doors at dismissal time. I’d spent most of the day in a hospital waiting room, all hushed quiet and nothing but adult decorum. On my way back home from the pharmacy, I found myself right in front of the middle school down the street from our house – at exactly 3:08…dismissal time. Traffic was at a standstill when the doors burst open and hordes of exuberant middle schoolers exploded out of the stately brick building.
A group of boys tumbled down the steps, passing a lunchbox to and fro. Soon, it was flying across the road and over the fence into the soccer field, much to their collective glee. Groups of kids zoomed this way and that, shouting and laughing at the top of their lungs. Some hauled enormous book bags, music equipment, and tattered looking projects. Some cartwheeled on the lawn, and some collected around the benches; nothing was done without great energy…and noise.
As I waited for traffic to begin moving again, I had a few moments to reflect upon what it is that I do for a living, and spend so much of my time thinking about: plotting and planning and managing the learning lives of irrepressible, mercurial middle schoolers. All the activity going on to the left and right of me that cool Fall day was not so different from what needs to be directed and channeled in Room 202 on a daily, minute by minute basis.
I could see the driver ahead of me shaking her head in exasperation and impatience. But I have to confess deeply enjoying the scene. Middle school kids have a special place in my heart, they are my tribe. It was great fun, for once, to be on the other side of school doors at dismissal.