Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Open the door, and let ’em in

I dropped my six-year-old daughter off at school on Tuesday morning. It was eighteen degrees and windy. School wouldn’t start for another ten minutes. So she walked up to the school and got into the line for her class, and then waited there, outside, standing in line, for ten minutes, until the bell rang and the teacher let them in.

Is this standard procedure everywhere now? No getting to school more than ten minutes early; no playing on the playground before school; no going into the school before the bell rings; everybody waits in a line? Even in good weather, I don’t see why the kids can’t go into school and wait in their classrooms, at least for those last ten minutes. When I was in elementary school (yeah, I know, forty years ago), we played outside or waited in our classrooms, whichever we liked. We certainly didn’t stand there waiting in single file for the bell to ring.

It’s just a small thing, I guess, but these unnecessary rules and constraints, these little indignities, these little deprivations of autonomy, add up. Maybe I’m in the grip of nostalgia, but it just seems so much more demeaning to be a kid now than it was forty years ago.

Local readers: do any of you know why the schools do it this way? More distant readers: Is this how it works where you are?


Josh M said...

I thought my school was bad. Making them wait outside in the cold is downright inhumane.

My school's official policy is that students may not be in the hallways or classrooms without a hallpass: We have "holding areas" (as I call them) in the lobby outside the gym, in the lobby outside the auditorium, or in the cafeteria for students to have a (very lousy) breakfast. Why kids can't be at lockers or in teachers' classrooms (who invite them in) I have no idea. The rule is generally disregarded as only a few of the Rule Sticklers want to start their day with an unnecessary confrontation with a student over something as silly as being inside of the building ten or fifteen minutes before they have to be for the rest of the day.

KD said...

Chris, I also think the kids should have the option to sit in the classrooms for a few minutes before the school day officially starts.

Our school does the "holding area" approach when the weather is bad. I'm thinking it has to be close to zero though before they will let them in for bad weather.

As to why the kids can't sit in the classrooms, I'm guessing that is something that not all teachers would agree to, they'd consider those ten minutes as part of their "prep time" they are to be getting according to their union contracts. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I know some teachers aren't willing to be flexible with issues like this.

StepfordTO said...

Hi Chris,

At our school supervision begins in the playground 20-25 minutes before the entry bell; kids are expected to play during this time, but many aren't dropped off until just before the bell. In inclement or freezing weather the kids are allowed into classrooms early. I'm not quite sure how early.

I suppose when I complain about our schools in Toronto, I should be grateful for these small blessings: longish lunches/recesses and fewer arbitrary draconian rules than in the schools of Iowa City! (I thought it was a progressive city!)

Chris said...

KD -- You may be right about the teachers not wanting to deal with it during their before-school prep time. But if that's the justification, it's a pretty sad commentary on how much the kids' interests are taken into account in school policy decisions.

Chris said...

Josh and KD -- I can't believe I'm actually wishing that our school would take the "holding area" approach. It sounds like something you'd use for cattle, but it would be an improvement over what they're doing now.