Between the Echoes: High School Show Down
An offshoot of Ed Trust’s Echoes From the Gap series, drawing stories of students from behind the statistics, this blog series shares shorter narratives — brief glimpses into classrooms and hallways — that give readers an opportunity to examine educator practices and policies through the intimate lens of student experience. All stories are based on interviews or first-hand accounts, but are shared with respect for the privacy of students and the adults around them.
Setting: A high school maybe near you
Time: Any day of the week
Every period, when the late bell rings, the administrator calls over the radio to start the sweep.
He walks the halls — his beat — walky-talky turned up. He’s like Joe Clark in Lean on Me with all the bravado minus the bat.
He’s looking for them. “The hall-walkers,” he calls them.
Assuming that they’re not doing what they’re supposed to.
Assuming they’re not where they’re supposed to be.
Assuming that they don’t have a reason.
Rounded up by his inexplicably large security team, the “suspects” are swept into the main office. Tumbling through the heavy door in a burst of bubblegum and backpacks, blue- and purple-streaked hair, and well-cared for sneakers. The constraints of characteristic khaki and collared shirt public school uniforms are cleverly stretched to accommodate glimmers of ripening individuality.
There aren’t enough seats for them all.
They’ve now missed 10 minutes of class.
The administrator starts the show — not for the benefit of the students he’s assembled, but for the unsuspecting audience of staff, parents, and students in the office. He does this five times a day.
“OK, who’s first? Any honor roll students here?” Then, as a gratuitous aside to his audience, but pitched at a volume loud enough to shame the students assembled there, “You notice no hands are up.” And back to the students, “That’s right, because if you were an honor roll student, you would be in class.”
It’s painful to watch.
It’s now fifteen minutes into class.
“Can we just go to class?” a young man reasonably asked.
“Ok, basketball. You’re up. Notice I’m not saying honor roll.”
“My teacher sent me to the library to get one of the—”
“Oh, we’ll see about that. How about we call your teacher?” His smirk making clear to the student how much he believes him. Picking up the phone with great fanfare, he looks to his presumed audience of adult bystanders in the office. Like we’re in on the joke. Like we share his assumption that the student is lying.
“Ms. Barth, I’ve got — what’s your name, basketball?”
“—I’ve got Travis here,” he chuckled, seemingly basking in the glow of his not-yet-secured win. “He said you sent him to the library to get something.”
And then he is listening, silent, his face changing.
“OK. I just wanted to make sure because we’ve got a bunch of riffraff who were walking the halls.”
He hangs up. Feigns distraction, eyes down, shuffling the papers on the desk.
“Get to class, basketball.”
As he walks out the door, the student says under his breath, “It’s Travis.”
The administrator barks to the receptionist who appears accustomed to this entire ritual, “Get on the PA and tell teachers no more hall passes for the rest of the day.”
A group of girls roll their eyes like dice and talk at volumes intended to be heard as they await their fate.
“It’s not even right. He just always thinks we’re doing something bad.”
“He doesn’t even know his name.”
“I’m not trying to even stay here.”
They have now missed 20 minutes of class.
“Ok, who’s next? — basketball wife, you’re up…”
If the point is to ensure that students are in class learning, then this strategy — like the similarly too-common practice of suspending students for skipping class — makes little-to-no sense, resulting in students missing even more instructional time.
Unless, of course, that’s not the point at all. Which raises the question, what exactly is?