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Walking the Line September 21, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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The quickest way from Point A to Point B is a straight line. But trying to get students to walk in a straight line is akin to herding cats. If I had a class pet, it would be a Australian Sheep Herding dog that could nip at my students’ heels to keep them in line. Ah, if only.

Two years ago, a veteran teacher announced she was going to retire. A week before the end of the school year, I heard her admonishing her first graders to walk in a straight line. OMG. Forty years in the classroom, and she was still repeating the same mantra about walking in a straight line on the very last week. Is this what the future holds for me? I’m afraid the answer is YES.

Why is it so important to walk in a straight line? First of all, my school is huge. If students walk all willy nilly, it’s a slippery slope. One minute they’re bunched together. Two seconds later, you’ve got a full-on stampede.

When I taught second grade, I used to say, “If you start talking, we stop walking!” And I/we did. One day we stopped 32 times on the way to lunch. Seriously. It took us 35 minutes to walk to the lunchroom which was visible from our classroom. I felt like a meanie, but when you have to do walk your class to lunch 180 times during the school year, you better get it right from the get go.

One day my students were so noisy in line that I pulled out my lunch and sat on a nearby wall. While they argued and pushed and shoved, I leisurely ate my lunch. “Just because you guys aren’t ready, doesn’t mean I have to wait to eat,” I said, licking my lips. Can you say Dramatic Effect?  I only had to do that once.

I also expect the line leader to set an example. No untied shoes in my line. If your shoelaces look like spaghetti, you have to step out of line to tie them, then go to the back of the line. When you’re in a leadership position, you’ve gotta be ready to roll. Some days the line stretches all the way down the hall. That’s when I say, “Hey, this line goes all the way to Las Vegas. What’s the problem?” The laggards speed up. You’ve got to be close enough to touch the person in front of you on the shoulder. My students know that if they have a problem lining up, they have a guaranteed spot – at the back of the line.

I’m also big on having students walk on the right side of the hall and when going up and down the stairs. I tell my students I’m teaching them to drive. They love to hear that. I also teach them how to do illegal U turns. They love it when I tell them we’re going to turn on a dime.

When my class goes to computer lab, we have to wind our way through those noisy smelly middle schoolers who are changing classes and slamming their locker doors. I’ve mistaken several middle schoolers for parents. I don’t know what these kids are eating, but they’re huge. I warn my students to stick close together because middle schoolers like to eat third graders. One day my students were walking in the hall and heard a middle schooler say, “Boy, I sure am hungry.” I’d never seen my students move so fast. But most important, they were walking in a straight line.

Photo taken at Zinnia in South Pasadena.


1. Catherine Sherman - September 21, 2009

This brings back fond memories of my school days, although we always had two parallel lines — boy and girl lines. That was back in the stone age. I love reading about this from the teacher’s point of view. You all are saints!

It was fun watching and photographing you as you set up your photo shot at Zinnia. There might be a future post: Blogger at work!

Cathy – Thanks. I shall await notification of my feast day. When I did my Monthly Mao series, I often smuggled Mao into stores in my messenger bag, so I could set him up for a photo shoot. I had him in the clearance section at Cost Plus World Market and was so busy taking pictures that I was shooing customers away! Jan


2. institutrice - September 21, 2009

Love the comment about “I sure am hungry!” That was serendipitous indeed. I actually laughed out loud. 😉

I miss having a boys’ line and a girls’ line – we were able to do that when I taught second grade. But, our school was only K-2 and was set up in pods so we rarely ran into other classes. (Only @lunch.) I hate being such a meanie in the hallway, but I also hate it when kids tromp by my room all noisy, so we talk about being respectful of others’ right to learn.

You’d think they would get it together and walk “right” to get to lunch! My class does the same thing. They complain about being late, but they don’t change their behavior. I don’t get it.

Institutrice – I was told early on that it was “illegal” to have a separate line for boys and for girls. I’m not sure if this is so, but it’s definitely a no-no. Besides it would be confusing for the two transgender students I’ve had (but that’s another blog post). When I, every so briefly, taught 5th grade, I made the students practice walking in a line. They complained they had asthma, like people who have asthma can’t walk. Their excuses stretched all the way to Las Vegas! Jan


institutrice - September 25, 2009

Wow, illegal! I suppose it could be discriminatory? And what would the transgendered kids do? (Can’t wait to read that post!) We have practiced walking in a line, and BOY did they complain!!! It was boring, stupid, they already know how to do it… To which I replied, “Then SHOW me you know how to do it, and then we’ll stop practicing!” They got real quiet and straight then!!!


3. misscheese - September 23, 2009

BAHAHAHA!!! I have totally done the whole, “Okay, I’m not waiting on you to line up/walk in a line to go to lunch. I’m going to eat my lunch now. MMMmmm this tastes sooo good!”

Apparently one of the elementary schools that fed into our middle school had a little “diddy” that they used to say to the kids…(picture a tiled floor): “Second tile, single file, with a smile!” and everyone had to line up in a straight line on the second row of tiles from the wall. HA.

Miss Cheese – Love it. Now I just have to tile the floors as ours are concrete and worn out linoleum. Years ago I worked at a school where when kids got their turn at the water fountain, everyone behind them would say, “1-2-4-5 step aside” to keep the line moving. Hey, whatever works! Jan


4. Catherine Sherman - October 3, 2009

Here’s a photograph of you photographing the stuffed creatures. Too bad someone didn’t photograph me photographing you! Maybe next time we can organize that.



5. Janelle - October 10, 2009

I love the blogging in tandem. Walking in a straight line. I do remember those days! And being afraid of middle schoolers.


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