My classroom overlooks the front lawn of the school. Parents drive their cars into the ‘bus loop’ which was built for busses, and yet, was built too small for any bus to ever fit into it. Welcome to the field of education. They built a second bus loop years later in the back of the school that was, in fact, big enough to fit a bus.
Our school does a great job at supervising students and ensuring that everyone can move through the halls, out of the building, down any stairs, and to their homes safely, whether via the cars in the ‘bus loop’ or via the busses in the other ‘bus loop.’. All teachers are in the hallways watching. At dismissal, multiple teachers are watching at every exit. You get the point.
On a beautiful, warm spring day, I looked out my window at the writhing mass of human students on the front lawn. My classroom is on the second floor, and so I have a bird’s-eye view of everything that happens out there. I noticed a cluster of students forming (never a good sign). I noticed two male students drop their backpacks (never a good sign). I noticed both students hand their cellular telephones to their friends (the final sign of impending badness). They approached one another with their small, middle school fists clenched in tight wads of confused and hormonally-charged rage.
As the first student pulled his hand back to punch, I opened my window and yelled at the top of my lungs, “WE DO NOT FIGHT ON SCHOOL PROPERTY!” Immediately, both administrators on the lawn, all seven teachers on the lawn, and all 100-ish students (most importantly the two boys about to punch each other) looked around to find out where the voice had come from, and without skipping a beat, the two battle boys bashfully hung their heads, grabbed their backpacks, forgot their phones, and walked stealthily away from each other.
Naturally, I backed away into my classroom to add to the confusion surrounding the source of the booming reminder of school rules -- I always enjoy contributing to the ‘magic is real’ side of life. I covertly watched everyone try to sort out what happened (thankfully, the answer was ‘nothing happened’) and eventually resume the status quo of gossip, parental pick ups, and homeward-bound groups of students walking together.
Let’s look back at why this story (which is actually relatively true) is an example of when screaming sometimes works.
The potential consequences of NOT screaming were very high in this instance. Students would have been suspended. Reputations and social status were on the line after the fight was over. Most importantly, students might have hurt themselves, or each other, if no one intervened. With impending consequences so high, you want the most shock value you can muster, and a rare scream is emphatically high in shock value.
The distance between the teacher and the students was vast. From the second floor to the front lawn, talking and whispering simply cannot work. With a fist flying at your face, silence, and even the sternest of teacher looks will go understandably unnoticed. Because the distance was far, screaming was a tool which helped to bridge the gap.
So much of the writing published about education is published by people who don't teach. I figured it was time for a teacher to write about teaching. I've been proud to teach 8th-grade ELA in Dunkirk City Schools since 2007, and to serve at Fredonia State University as an adjunct professor, teaching educational technology since 2017.