24 hours in Lawrence Community stories

Starting a school day

The opening bell rings and students flood the hallways like water suddenly breaking free from a dam

May 22, 2007


Just outside the doors of Southwest Junior High School, teenagers gather in small groups talking merrily with each other. As 8:00 approaches, the groups crowd the entrances, just like every school day morning. The opening bell rings and students flood the hallways like water suddenly breaking free from a dam. A droplet stops at a locker to put up books and get materials for her first class. A rivulet turns into a side hallway heading for one of the classrooms. Amidst the flow, I make my way, watching students as they pass. Some make a point to say hello or wave. Some nod a hello, almost imperceptibly. A female student nods and greets me with "Stan." I nod and reply, "Stan." It's a quirky greeting that has developed over the two years I've known the student. Each student has a unique way of feeling connected to the school. Each day is a new chance to do better, to learn more, to make a difference in the lives of students. As assistant principal, I hope to connect with the students, less as the dispenser of discipline, and more as a mentor, a counselor, an advisor.

By 8:08, all but a last few trickles of students are in their classes, ready to hear the announcements that will fill the air via the intercom. The principal's voice is heard with the familiar greeting wishing a good morning. A teacher catches me in my office and sits down to talk about the next year's schedule. She has some concerns and we discuss some possibilities. It's just a few minutes, but she understands the limitations of scheduling and I get to hear her ideas, ideas that will help the students and allow her to mentor a younger teacher.

I'm still talking with the teacher as we step out of the main office and back into the main hallway. Another teacher stops me and asks if I can be at an I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan) meeting later in the day. He comes with me as I head back into my office to check my calendar. My schedule looks clear and I tell him I can be there. We chat about the student and his I.E.P. The student is doing well and the meeting will be an annual review of his plan and progress.

It's 8:25 and I start for the main hall again, but I'm stopped by the attendance secretary. "Do you have a moment, Mr. Fearing?" She has a question regarding truancy status of one student. Quickly and efficiently she goes over the pertinent points, waits for an answer, and returns to her desk. The morning is the busiest portion of her day, hectic even, but you would never guess it from her demeanor and tone.

By 8:30 I'm out in the halls and taking a look around the school. A science teacher stops me to discuss an issue with a major science project. I take some notes and make sure I understand the concern. It is something that will have to be looked at later in the day.

After completing a walk-through, I stop by the School Resource Officer's office. He looks up as I step in. He has a computer question and I come around his desk to see the computer a little better. We work together at shifting a computer around and then setting it operating again. His plan addresses two issues and makes the whole computer set-up more "user friendly."

I head back to the office at 9:00 and a student asks for assistance with a locker. Sometimes the locks have little hitches in the operation. Often, a student gets rushed doing the combination and use the "approximate area" rule. Rather than making sure the combination reaches 13, they only get to 15. The student then looks amazed that I'm able to work the combination.

By 9:15 I'm back in my office. Since it's a Thursday, the students are on block schedules and classes meet for about 95 minutes. It's our day of the longest classes. On Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, the students go to all 8 classes and meet for about 45 minutes in each session. Wednesday sessions are short block, necessitating the alternating of days when block classes are held.

Matthew Fearing is a fellow in the Citizen Journalism Academy.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.