I stopped talking mid-sentence and just stood motionless at the front of my classroom holding a blue expo marker. Her voice echoed through the hallway as if she was yelling through a bull horn and froze everyone on the second floor of Toby Farms Elementary School.
My students and I were terrified to move and believed it to be in our best interest to sit still until she was done. The thought of her coming down the hallway and unleashing a similar tirade on us was enough to keep us quiet and motionless. We knew what everyone else knew at Toby Farms Elementary; no one ever survived a verbal attack from Mrs. H.
Once, I felt it safe for me and my students to continue on with class I said…
Me: I bet those of you who had Mrs. H last year had no choice but to learn. She has you guys on lock down.
Raheem: You would think that Mr. Bacchus but don’t let the outside of a classroom fool you.
Me: What do you mean?
Raheem: We were quite, in perfect rows, books open and that was it. Nobody is really paying attention.
Mahogony: Yea Mr. Bacchus as long as you set there and acted like you were doing your work she ain’t bother you.
Raheem: It may look like those guys are in there learning but really I don’t remember learning much of anything in her class last year. All we did was book work.
Mahogony: Either do I, The only thing I remember learning was how not to get yelled at by Mrs. H.
Raheem: We sometimes get loud during debates, playing games, or doing group work in your class but we are actually learning in here Mr. Bacchus
Mahogony: I learn in here sometimes and I don’t even know it. I think we are just playing games but really we are learning.
Raheem: So don’t judge a classroom by what it looks like when you pass by Mr. Bacchus. Silence and open books may fool you, look at what the students are doing inside the classroom to see if it’s a good class.
Raheem and Mahogony taught me a crucial lesson in education. A silent orderly classroom isn’t necessarily better than one that seems to be in chaos. What’s happening inside the classroom is far more important than how it looks from the hallway. What those two didn’t realize was that they were also teaching me an important lesson in life. The time I spend worrying about putting up ideal appearances on the outside is frivolous if there is nothing happening on the inside.