Kelly Leehey wrote a great post questioning why we teach students to walk in quiet lines:
Sometimes when I see a group of students walking by in an exceptionally straight and silent line, I get that teacher impulse to say, “Wow, look at what a great line Mrs. So-and-So’s class is making!” However, now, I stop myself, because, really, what’s the big deal? Why do we need to control the way our students walk?
We want our students to be responsible, respectful, innovative, and creative. We want our students to think outside the box. We want our students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. We want our students to see the big picture, to always seek the why. We want our students to crave deeper answers and new understandings. We want our students to walk in straight, silent lines.
This last desire doesn’t seem to fit in with the others. If we are trying to empower students, why exert our power over them in such a controlling, trivial way?
I have to admit–I’ve always insisted on orderly lines. My expectation is usually (relative) silence on the stairs and in hallways. Quiet conversations in outdoor hallways and courtyards are okay, assuming kids can talk and look where they’re going at the same time, which is not a given in the primary grades. (Oh, if I had a dollar for every child who rammed their sideways-turned head straight into my stomach…)
I want students to buy into the need for quiet in the hallway, so I have lots of discussions with them about the “why” behind this expectation. Usually I let the class draw up the guidelines for hallway behavior themselves. Most of the kids get it…and it only takes one noisy class to go tearing down the hall while my kids are trying to think for someone to exclaim, “THAT’S why it’s important to walk in a quiet line in the hallway!!” The whole class will nod in solemn agreement and you can almost see the lightbulbs turn on.
So the need for quiet is fairly obvious to me (and my students.) Walking in a line, less obvious. Why do I insist on it? For one thing, a line helps kids keep themselves from talking when it’s disruptive to do so. A line makes it easier for kids to exert self-control and be respectful of the classes who are trying to learn. Lines also make it easier for classes to pass one another in the hallway. It’s less painful to stab yourself in the eye with a plastic fork than to try leading your group of kids around another class that is walking in packs and shouting incessantly to each other.
Walking in quiet lines is unnatural, yes, and it’s not a skill that’s very useful outside of the school environment. That’s one reason why it’s hard for kids to do–and also why it’s so important for teachers to be understanding and patient with wiggly little bodies who need to bee-bop down the hall. But calm, orderly lines are a necessity when large groups of kids need to move simultaneously down echo-y hallways. Everything that happens in school won’t perfectly reflect life outside of school, but if we can help kids understand the reason for our expectations, the results will benefit everyone.
That’s my take. What’s your opinion on teaching kids to walk in orderly lines in the hallway?
UPDATE: There’s a nice discussion happening here, too.