Thursday, January 24, 2013


Today marked the third consecutive day of indoor recess.  It's been bitterly cold and the kids have not been allowed outside. This type of situation can be particularly trying for even the most experienced of teachers.   Three days of no outdoor breaks for kids to run around and burn off some energy combined with the small space we work in, creates a perfect storm.  Or maybe more of a tsunami.

As I traveled through the hallways today twenty-two little jumping, singing, humming, whistling, bouncing, sliding, twirling, hopping, flailing bodies followed behind me.  Well, sort of followed.  Two actually veered off in the wrong direction.  I lost track of the times I stopped in the hallway to quiet them or shush them.  All to no avail.

Teachers have their own ways of crowd control and classroom management.  We have no fear facing a crowd of fifty small children and taking control to quiet them down.  But honestly, there are only so many ways you can say, "Be quiet" or "Settle down" or "Stop that right now".  I tried to change up my expressions today to at least get their attention.  

"Simmer down!" I demanded at lunchtime when the noise level was becoming unbearable.  Didn't work, but it did get a few giggles. 

"Use your inside voices!" I directed.  Didn't work. 

"Turn it down a few notches!" I ordered next, miming like I was turning down a dial. For a few brief minutes, it did actually get a bit quieter.  

[five minutes later]  Student approached my desk.

"It's too noisy in here," she notified me.  As if I didn't already know that.  

"What?" I asked her, pretending I couldn't hear her. 

"It's too noisy in here," she repeated.  Loudly.

"Whhat????" I said again, teasing.

She walked away, not sure whether she should laugh or cry.    At this point I was beginning to feel like crying may not be such a bad idea.  But I opted for more maturity and determination.  I've been a teacher for almost fifteen years.  I've dealt with tougher situations then just indoor recess and noisy kids.

I turned on my microphone.  I cleared my throat.  I stood up and put on my most serious teacher face.

"Boy and girls!  Can I please have your attention?"  At just this precise moment, the secretary announced that it would be indoor recess.   Most of the kids groaned.  After all they don't like indoor recess anymore than the teachers do.
I continued.    "It's way too noisy in here.  I realize that you have been cooped up in here for three days without recess.  But you need to really try to talk quieter.  Please. Thank you.  That is all."

It worked for a few minutes.  (sigh)

I stepped out into the hall for some relief.  I noticed the rooms across from me seemed to be having the same noise problem I was having.  I peeked in and saw the teachers looked as exasperated as I was. 

I googled stir-crazy when I got home today and read this:

Stir Crazy is a phrase that dates to 1908 according to the Oxford English Dictionary[1] and the online Etymology Dictionary. Used among inmates in prison, it referred to a prisoner who became mentally unbalanced because of prolonged incarceration. It is based upon the slang stir (1851) to mean prison. It is now used to refer to anyone who becomes restless or anxious from feeling trapped and even somewhat claustrophobic in an environment, usually a confined space, perceived to be more static and unengaging than can any longer continue to hold interest, meaning, and value to and for them. 'Stir crazy' could be classified as a more specific form of boredom, but combined with elevated and often increasing levels of anxiety, frustration, agitation, figeting, manic depressive type mood swings, and accessory episodes of acting out violently or otherwise antisocially on those feelings, the longer the unengaging non-stimulating environment is persisted in.

I find it very funny that the word stir is a slang word for prison.  I think I speak for all of us teachers when I say that there are days when our classroom definitely feels more like a prison than a classroom and our job feels more like a warden or prison guard than an educator.  Just saying.  

The good thing about any storm is that it always passes.  Tomorrow is a half day of school.  And Monday's forecast is calling for high 30's, low 40's.  And you know what that means. 

The return of outdoor recess.  

No comments:

Post a Comment