Jeremy flicked Jessica’s ear. She turned around and shot him daggers with her eyes with the kind of enmity that only a 14 year old girl can manage. She turned back to her work, and Jeremy flipped her ponytail with his pencil. She let out an exasperated sigh and all Jeremy’s soccer player friends had a good guffaw in the back of the class. Ms. Undertone wandered over behind Jeremy’s seat, and as he wadded up a paper ball to shoot down the back of Jessica’s collar, she bent down and whispered a single word into Jeremy’s ear. “Hallway.”
Jeremy, who had been paying too much attention to taunting Jessica, had no idea that Ms. Undertone was behind him, so when the venomous hiss of her whisper and it’s accompanying coffee-y and onion-y breath bent his ear, he was immediately taken aback. He had been assaulted by a superior force. He was fighting in a straightforward, adolescent world, and Ms. Undertone had sidled up next to him and caught him after, during, and before the act of disruption. She knew everything, and he never even knew it! She walked into the hall straight backed and stiff and Jeremy, without a teacher against whom he could argue, was forced to follow without argument or further disruption.
When in the hallway, Ms. Undertone keeps her voice low, chooses her words carefully, and simply states: “your behavior is preventing your entire athletic team and Jessica from succeeding. It’s my job to create an environment that allows students to succeed. Your classmates are all trying to succeed, and your actions alone are stopping them. Your behavior will change. Feel free to take a minute to collect your thoughts and feelings out here, and when you’re ready to join your teammates in the learning process, we’ll all welcome you back.”
Ms. Undertone enters the classroom first, and immediately moves to help a student to refine his work, acting as if nothing had happened. Several seconds later, Jeremy enters the classroom, sits down, and works. Jessica’s ponytail is unmolested for the remainder of the class, and her and Jeremy date for a week in May, but he decides Mandy is prettier, so he leaves Jessica, and she dates Pablo, the captain of the football team who treats women like they deserve.
This is one of the few anecdotes that, when used in my classroom, has actually worked 100% of the time, 100% as advertised. I’ve done no research to prove this theory, and I haven’t even documented the fifty three times I’ve used this method. It’s possible I’ve only used this method forty nine times, or fifty seven. What teacher has time to document these kind of facts? The hallway is scary for the student in the hallway (bereft of the audience that would cheer him onto a loud, boisterous, and disruptive argument with Ms. Undertone), it is scary for the students left in the classroom (they dare not misbehave the rest of the period, because the hallway is SERIOUS, Ms. Undertone must be REALLY mad), and it owes all it’s fear-inspiring magnificence to a careful manipulation of the unknown.
I’m sure there are many teachers who have used the hallway method with much less success than is indicated above, and are currently screaming “shenanigans” at my book. First of all, the fact that they’re screaming at a book should alert you to the level of their management abilities. Second of all, Ms. Undertone made a few choices that mark the difference between a hallway visit with a student being as successful as hers, and as useless as screaming.
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.