It freaked me out.
Not only were the kids not in line, they were talking. There would just be this big group of chattering, happy kids surrounding the teacher as they walked down the hall. I had never seen anything like it.
My students had to be in a straight line in the hall. They had to be silent. They had to have their arms folded so that they wouldn't touch each other. The worst was trying to get them to do that after lunch or recess (Kansas law dictated that recess and lunch could not follow or precede each other, which really just wasted a lot time with lining up twice as much and finding something not too time-consuming to do between the two), when they were all hyper and happy. Making them walk around like prison inmates always cured that. It sucked.
If you have a choice about where your kids go to school, or are moving and looking for new schools, please visit the school if you can. Preferably around lunch time. A good school isn't just about test scores. It's about the attitudes of the staff and students, it's about opportunities, it's about the culture of learning.
- No problem with prospective parents wanting to visit.
- Students who can walk through the halls without having to keep their arms folded.
- Actual student work on the walls, not cutesy pre-made bulletin boards. Or even worse, nothing.
- Recess. Recess is vital to kids' well-being and districts who don't realize that are way, way, way behind the times.
- Art, Music and PE. The broke, urban district I taught in prioritized these classes; I think it's one of the reasons that it's one of the more successful urban districts in the country.
- Classrooms that are neither eerily quiet nor chaotically loud.
- Staff members who can manage kids without yelling at or speaking over them.
- Plans in place for disasters. It's horrible to think about, but it's even more horrible to think of tragedies that could have been prevented or lessened with disaster drills/plans in place. Think of it as just a step beyond the fire drill.
- Grade level teachers who work and even possibly teach together. In first and second grade reading, for example, you can have a massively wide range of abilities. Last year, Lovebug didn't have a reading group for a while, it was just him meeting occasionally with his teacher - he thought he was in trouble. It was just that no one else in his class was on the same reading level, but I guarantee that with 3 other first grade classes, there were other kids in the grade on his level. Why have each teacher try to manage 7 or 8 levels in their room instead of mixing kids up into appropriate levels for the reading period? I don't know.
- Parent volunteer opportunities that are genuinely helpful. I student taught in an urban district in Portland, then did a lot of subbing and long term subbing in a Seattle suburb. We didn't necessarily have a lot of parent volunteers, but the ones we did have came in to help with actual, important tasks - correcting papers, working with individual students, cutting out the construction paper shapes needed for a math lesson and so on. In Kansas City, we very rarely had parent volunteers, except on some field trips. And then there's here, where there are a ton of volunteers that photograph everything and do elaborate crafts, but (despite there being legions of former teachers and tons of smart people) never get to do anything academic. It seems silly and wasteful of resources.
- Options for when the copier breaks down. I think worksheets can have their place, but if that's all the kids do? If that's all you see in the hanging in the hallways? If that's all you see kids doing? Then there's a problem. No one should be too upset if the copier breaks down for a few days.
- No open positions. The positions in good schools fill up fast, because people actually want to work there.