Since school re-started after the earthquake, 5 classes have been taught in the Great Hall. There are no walls between “classrooms,” and chalkboards are precariously affixed to whatever convenient surface could be found. It can get a little loud down there—a fact I’ve noticed more recently since I’ve had to keep the computer lab windows open because we’ve been unable to use the air conditioner. In any case, when it comes right down to it, the open-air classrooms aren’t ideal, but they’re not terrible.
In a fit of intellectual elitism, my school kept all the higher level students—those with .1 or .2 suffixes—in the classrooms and sent lower levels to the hall. The five classes in the hall are 9.3, 9.4, 9.5, 10.4, and 11.4. My first class I had in the hall was 11.4.
My biggest worry wasn’t the noise coming from other classes. In fact, it was quite the opposite: I worried I would be too loud. I believe it was my 9.1 class who, earlier in the year, started laughing every time I spoke during class. I asked what was funny. “Why are you shouting at us?” asked a boy in the back row. When I’m teaching, my natural inclination is to project as loudly as possible. This probably comes from my swimming lessons days when I’d have to yell because we were outside and the kids’ ears were all pressed up next to the pool gutter, which was in effect a large echo chamber. I’m a screamer, and I was nervous other teachers would be annoyed.
Not so. Just like at the pool, no amount of one person’s yelling can escape one class’s area. There’s far too much competing noise. Classes that once were able to control themselves during a free period—that is, a period when no teacher is assigned to class, or when the teacher fails to show up—now find themselves without barriers literally and figuratively. It’s hot and it’s the end of the year; classes are getting raucous.
Another awkward aspect of having no walls is other teachers can see you teaching. Teachers are a strange bunch, and things like this can cramp style. I remember when we did the Safe Environment for Children project in Oakland, the teachers were one of the lousiest groups, and I think it’s because the profession allows omniscience on a micro scale. And one way of screwing up that micro world is taking away the walls. It’s not quite a fishbowl because mostly no one is actually watching you, but anyone could look over at any second, and that lack of privacy can be a style cramper.
Last, I think the kids in the hall are going a little stir crazy. I think they were willing to put up with the situation for the first week or two, but now the idea of having no walls and being able to fly under the radar is beginning to sink in. In my 10.4 class today, I’m pretty sure the back two rows had no idea what I was talking about. At this point, they’ve probably established their own Lord of the Flies hierarchy, and I didn’t have the conch shell.
I hope you’re well. Pictures below.
The view from the back row of my 10.4 class.
The 10.4 chalkboard, complete with 9.4 to the left and 9.3 to the right.
The view outside.
5 months ago