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NYC Helpline: How To: Manage Your Classroom

Learning to Love The Crowds: A Hallway Pass for Teachers
Rebecca Hollander

I remember it distinctly. The confusion, people rushing around me, yelling, talking, the volume so loud... can't think... so many voices screaming, can't get through, can't get past the masses blocking my way, can't survive... how do people do this everyday?

That was my first day of school in a New York City High School. I thought I'd never be able to navigate my way to class. I was afraid of all those kids in my way. I couldn't believe that people could function in a place as loud as any construction site I'd ever walked past. And now? Now those masses don't bother me as I make my way to teach my students. Those "scary people" are my students and hallway culture is just a way for them to express themselves. The noise is a vent for them. a way to relax when not in those quiet boxes we call classrooms.

I have become a part of the hallway culture. I use the hallways as an extension of my classroom. I find myself seeking out those hallways instead of avoiding them! I see the hallways as a chance to see and connect to my students in a new way. Because of this, I have had some really wonderful encounters with my students. Once, I saw one of my seventh grade students sitting on the floor with her head down. This is a student who, in class, is cheerful, popular and overly chatty with her friends. I sat down and talked with her and discovered that she was miserable, she missed her old friends and wanted to go back to her old school. The exuberant face I saw in my class everyday was a facade she put on to impress her friends. Ever since then, I have taken time to check in with her and see how she is really doing. Without the hallway, I would have never known the real world of this student.

The hallway is not just for serious encounters with students. Once I caught an impromptu "wedding" between two of my eighth grade girls. I even got to be the flower girl in that lighthearted school day moment. Sometimes I turn hallway maneuvering into my own personal game. I pretend the various legs, bags and jackets littering the hallway are mines! I have to dodge the running students to get to the safety of my classroom! Other times I walk through yelling "Beep, beep, beep" (like a track that's backing up) and see who moves out of my way. This tactic is most fun when pushing a video cart!

I joke with my students in the hallway. I laugh with my students in the hallway. I also cry with my students in the hallway, over their accomplishments and their struggles (well, they cry and I offer comfort). And sometimes, yes, I do have to reprimand or "gently scold" my students in the hallway, but that's just part of being a teacher.

Once I recognized that the hallway is a huge part of the culture of a school, I was on my way to becoming a part of that culture (insane though that culture may seem at times). Once I relaxed, I found that I actually enjoyed the hustle and bustle of school life.


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