My students are settled into their class work, using whisper voices when they need to talk, and I am working with a reading group. Then you swing open the door and shout: “MRS. KELLY, CAN I BORROW YOUR SET OF 3-D GEOMETRIC SHAPES FOR MATH TODAY?”
Nothing like planning ahead.
Students’ heads pop up. I point to my closet door, wishing I had Darth Vader’s pointing finger at the moment, but feeling like him inside.
The whisper turns into an audible buzz. A few students start jabbing each other’s arms with the eraser-end of their pencils.
Next, a specialist arrives: “I NEED JASON, JOSHUA, JACOBA, AND JEOVANNI.
I’m supposed to rise and retrieve the students for you?
Could you possibly schlep into my classroom, tap the kids on the shoulder, and sign them out at the same time you’re catching eye contact with me?
Never, ever do I say what’s in my head.
The other interrupters I can’t be honest with because they’re honestly hard-working people like me who don’t realize a classroom community takes monumental effort to organize.
- The wonderful PTC volunteer who drops in to ask questions, taking my attention away from the student who is struggling to count accurately to 20.
- The phone rings.
- The father who drops of his son’s lunch, opens the door and shouts, “I BROUGHT FRANK’S LUNCH. HI, FRANK! The scene continues …
- A camera, a bunch of students, and a request for another yearbook picture.
- The phone rings again.
What I Want to Say If I Could Be Honest
- I would love to talk with you, but I’m working with my students. Can you make an appointment with me?
- I don’t care about the yearbook. (Okay, I’ll play nice. Please email me concerning the urgent yearbook pictures you need. Of course, I signed up to teach in order to spend my time with these matters.)
- Please drop lunches off at the office.
- I can meet during lunch. Ignore me if I talk while chewing at the same time. Lunch time is swift.
- Go away. I mean, please come back at 3:00 p.m.
- Did you mean to startle the daylights out of my students?
- MY HEAD IS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK IF THE STUDENTS DON’T MEET THEIR GRADE LEVEL EGOS.
- Let’s pretend the phone isn’t ringing, again, shall we?
What You Can Do to Help Classroom Interruptions
Talk with specialists in your school and explain how they can get students from the classroom.
It’s okay to tell them to walk in the door and find that student without talking, as long as you know the student is leaving.
It’s okay to tell the specialist you want them to whisper.
Brainstorm suggestions for whole-school policies that would benefit everyone. Bounce the idea off your principal prior to a faculty meeting.
Be nice. It’s not worth your personal health to stress.
The father who dropped the son’s lunch by will probably drop off a hot coffee for you on the next field trip. Be especially patient with parents. Of all the people, parents deserve your grace.
Someday—maybe—the rest of the human race will realize a classroom setting is sacred and deserves the respect and reverence given to libraries, churches, and hospitals.
Until then, accept the interruptions you cannot change.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU
- How do you deal with interruptions?
- Do you find visitors interfere with the classroom learning environment?
- Please comment on the blog or look for me on social media.