Friday, February 20, 2015

What's In Your Desk Drawer? Day 15

"Oh...did you need to go back to your locker?"

Did you need a hall pass to leave class when you were in school?

In high school, we had these little slips of paper that teachers were supposed to fill out if you were going to be traveling the halls of school, indicating that you had permission to be out of class. I know a few of my teachers got sick of filling out those little forms, and took matters into their own hands. One had a 2-foot section of a piece of 2x4 lumber with his name written on it that served as a hall pass. Another took things a step further: since most kids were headed to the bathroom, his hall pass was...a toilet seat. (Classy, right? Unfortunately, I can see myself doing that too...)

In my last position in K-12 schools, we had hall passes. But rather than the little slips of paper, we had plastic passes with our names engraved in them. And we actually had several passes that could be doled out to the kids as needed, depending on their destination: restroom, office, or locker.

I only have my locker pass left out of my set of hall passes. I'm pretty sure the bathroom pass got left behind in there one time--and I wasn't about to go searching for it! I remember that a student accidentally cracked my office pass in half while he was brining it back with him from a trip up to the office to call home about some forgotten item. (It stands out in my mind, because he was worried I was going to be upset with him for breaking the pass. I wasn't. Nice to see a middle school boy so apologetic though.) It's funny to me that the locker pass remains. It may have been the most-used of my set of passes. If kids forgot something they needed for class, they knew they could grab the pass, get my attention with a wave of the pass, head out to their locker to grab the thing, and be back in their seat in 60 seconds. (Most of my students' lockers were within 30 steps of my classroom door.)

Now that I'm thinking about this, what were these passes really for?

At the time, I never gave this too much thought. (Other than the fact that I NEVER TOUCHED the restroom pass if I could help it. Seriously. Ewww.) But now that I'm reflecting on this...why did they have to take a pass with them? It's not like we had the hallway police sitting out there, waiting to swoop in on kids and demanding to see their passes. ("STOP! Let me see your hall pass. Hmmm...restroom, eh? Okay, this checks out...but I'm watching you...") Seriously, I think we even told the kids that they had to have a pass with them in case someone asked them why they were out of class. I'm pretty sure no one ever actually asked them.

So why require the hall passes?

I suppose the argument could be made that requiring a hall pass is intended to teach kids responsibility. As in "you need to be responsible to be in class, and if you need to leave class, you need to be responsible for asking permission first." Now, I agree that kids should be in class. I mean, that's why they are supposed to be at school, right?


How does carrying a piece of plastic (or a signed slip of paper, or a 2x4, or a toilet seat) with them really teach responsibility?

I mean, really?

Now I'm wondering if it's actually more about control than responsibility. Maybe the pass is actually a "stick" keeping kids from leaving your classroom at random.

And in that case, I start to wonder, "What is happening (or NOT happening) in your classroom that makes kids want to get out of there?" Hmmm...


(This post is part of a series about the weird stuff teachers have in their desk drawers. You can read more about this project here, and I hope you'll share the stories of the weird stuff you have in your desk too!)

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