I had hall duty today. I walked around with a badge and a walkie-talkie, inviting wandering students to make their way back to class, or if they had spare, to make use of the cafeteria and library. Towards the end of the period, the national anthem played, and then a series of school announcements. Standard school policy is for those of us in the halls to hold our place for the duration of these announcements.
For the most part, I perform the job as required. I ask students if they have a class to get to, and if not, I invite them to make use of the cafeteria. During the national anthem, I gesture for students to set aside their distractions, and during announcements, I offer reminders to hold their spot.
One particular student, a guy wondering the halls for lack of anything else to do, started to chat me up during the announcements. “Do we really need to know about wearing our helmets? I mean, isn’t that something obvious to everyone?”
I asked if he’d ever met a victim of brain trauma, in hope of prompting deeper consideration for the importance of the message. “I’ve met people who won’t wear their helmet because they think it musses up their hair.”
The announcements went on, and we continued chatting, a good conversation with a kid who seems at odds with school. Though most of the other students were waiting for the announcements to end, I noticed a couple of others walking along. Then I noticed one of the school administrators call out to those truant students, in an effort to keep them in place. Then I noticed the administrator noticing me in conversation with a student.
It’s in moments as these that I become aware of my strength as an enabler and challenge as a guardian. I imagine that the administrator thought I was neglecting my duty, ensuring that the rules are understood and implemented. Because I see my role as fostering self-determined students, the chance for meaningful dialogue trumps a chance for reluctant compliance.