The School: Part 5 Human Makeup

November 28, 2007 at 4:30 am Leave a comment

Within the walls of a school, there are kids, teachers, aids, secretaries, administrators, lunchroom staff, and maintenance staff. On occasion, or in certain school, there are student teachers, classroom observers, parent volunteers and security staff. Delivery people are in and out with their packages and bundles. There is an atmosphere created by human activity. In the case of a school, the activity is directed toward learning. As a result, there are different types of activity and the associated sensory stimulations. If we were to take a tour of a typical school, we might sense the following.

We arrive at the front door and ring the bell or wave at a camera. There was a time when we could just walk into a school and go where we wanted. A series of school intrusions resulted in increased school security. As you are buzzed in, we notice bright, eye catching motivational posters. We are met by a security person who asks who we are and what’s the purpose of our visit. Most schools issue a pass that we will be expected to display until we leave. Not too many schools allow visitors free access to the whole school. For the sake of our tale, we will have such open access.

We pass through the cafeteria at lunch. The noise level is almost deafening. Everyone is talking. Could anyone be listening? One girl in the far corner has such a loud piercing voice that she could be used as a tornado siren. The babble assaults the human ear. The smell of melted cheese, baked chocolate chip cookies and that odor that you not quite sure of battles the noise for sensory stimulation. Mixed together it’s a smell that hasn’t changed in fifty years. Somewhere in the deep recesses of the brain memories of school lunch stirs in our mind. We notice the trash barrels filled to overflowing. The hair styles and clothes are different from our generation as is their music. A sense of relief overcomes us as we step by the teacher “doing her duty.” Teachers have assigned supervisory roles in most schools. It part of the job. The corridor outside the cafeteria is welcome quiet.

The hallway is colorful and decorated with student work. We pause as we pass through the hall amazed at the talent of some students. Occasional we see a graffiti identifying the artist as the “gay” so-and-sot for the most part little damage is evident. The quiet begins to fade as we approach the gymnasium. Many schools now have two or more gyms. The sound of bouncing balls and shouting teens grow louder as we approach an open gym door. We look in to see groups of teens running back and forth yelling at each other. Off in the corner two casual dressed teachers sit on folding chairs speaking in animated gestures about something or other. We notice a motley team of teens flopped on the bleachers and Books strewn next to them. They either stare into space or hastily write notes. The smell of stall sweat signals the time to move on.

Silence again. Only briefly as the drums draw us into the arts wing. Trophies fill glass cases that line a back wall. As we step closer we can’t help but notice the film of dust that has been collecting for some time. The choir room’s door is pulled closed. We decide to move along. The clay sculptures fill colorful cabinets and racks. Oils and water color paintings hang from the walls. The strangest designs and colors create the design of each wall. The soft chatter from each classroom does not extend into the hall. Each member of the class seems preoccupied with their creations speaking only to their closest neighbor asking for this tool or color.

We find the photography suddenly demarking the next departmental area. Only one wall holds photos. Next to that wall we can see groups of students arranging objects and taking pictures. Beyond the class we can see a small courtyard where some individuals are attempting to photograph nature. The teacher is at first not even noticed. As we span the room, we discover the teacher huddled with a group attempting to explain the working of a camera. Come to think of it, we never noticed the art or music teacher. We wonder if they were there.

We move around a corner and into another way. There is no hum of conversation or shuffle of activity. There is only the drone of crickets. A large sign printed by a computer introduced us to the “Tech Territory.” Each room was filled with students pecking away at computer keyboards. The teacher sat at a raised area looking at the monitor in front of him. From his dais he could not only watch every student in the class but could monitor the monitors. He looked bore and give us a smile. He was the first teacher to actually take notice of us.

Up a few steps, and we entered a carpeted area plush with sofas and tables and chairs. The wall on the far side was a line of computer desks. Computer screens blazed blue awaiting a client. The library was a vast area. In the center a librarian peered at us as we approached her redoubt. She was the first to challenge our presences. When we explained, she soften into a sweet person who provided a history of the school and a list of the qualities of her library. She pointed out that the word “library” was an antiquated term and no longer in use. This area is “My LRC!” This room contains all the recourses for learning. The Learning Resource Center is the hub of learning in the school. As she spoke, a gaggle of pupils hurdled into the LRC. The librarian, or LRCian, turned and stomped to the new arrivals. “Stop!” We could hear the authority. The impact was immediate. They stopped in their tracks and fear gagged them. The silence had returned. We could hear the orders being issued as pupils sat in assigned places. We better felt the need to move along.

We left the LRC and found ourselves faced with a beehive of activity. Pupils roamed in and out of a suite of offices. A rather pretty young lady sat at a desk. She had a pleasant smile and seemed to know each pupil that came in. She sent some out into the corridor of offices and others took a seat to wait. The phone rang constantly. She retained smile as if it was permanently attached. She had a soothing voice when she answered the phone. The sign on her desk told all: “Ms Penny, Guidance Secretary.” We smiled and moved on.

Finally, a corridor with classrooms. It wasn’t perfectly quiet but it was not noisy. As we ambled down the hallway, we peeked into classroom. Many had teachers who dominated the room with their presence. Lecture or monologue? Students stared into space or were busy preparing a note or trying to hold their eyes opened. In the next classroom, students had desks pulled into circles and were heatedly discussing some issue. They were not screaming. Each seemed to take a turn with little interruption by fellow team members. There was no one asleep here. Everyone seemed engaged in their discussion. It took sometime for us to locate the teacher. He was sitting in a student desk. He listened and spoke in his turn just the students seemed to be doing everywhere. The activity was inviting and we had to struggle away to avoid joining the fray.

The other classes seemed to have competent teachers as we passed along the corridor. We were nearing the end of our tour. Just one more stop. Where’s the maintenance area we asked. The directions carried back near the entrance. We had missed the large doors marked “Building and Grounds” in large bold letters. We stepped into the room. It was filled with clutter. One old man stepped out of a closet and stared defiantly at us. He shrugged his shoulders and ambled away. As we turned to leave the deserted area, we caught site of three or four gathered around a tree on the side of the building.

We looked at each other and waved good bye to the guardian of the door. We had spent an hour roaming the building. The school is a honeycomb of hives with a myriad of activities. Learning seems to be at stake in each corner of this building. It seemed to be the concerted effort of each person to guide the pupils on the path of life. Although, no school is exactly like this, these represent the activities that occur. If we tour another school, these the aspects of the school.

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Entry filed under: school.

Part 4: The Standardized Test The School: Part 6 Influences

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