Monday, October 13, 2014

Recollections of a Former High School Administrator: Supervision in the Cafeteria and Bathrooms

It was a cool, brisk fall day (pretty sure it wasn’t spring). Someone had given me one of those awesome sour apple blow pops that were covered in caramel. I was watching the cafeteria while standing in close proximity to the boy’s bathroom. This was so I could keep an ear and a nose open…just in case extracurricular activities began in the restroom or nicotine desires hit. That day a student came up to me and asked, “How many years did you go to college?” I inquired, “Where is this going?” He quipped, “Just wondered how much money you spent so that you could watch us eat and keep us from smoking in the bathroom.  Insightful…young’in.

 I took my job seriously …after all I had been hired to be bad cop. There had been some issues with discipline in previous years so good cop and bad cop were extended their missions: send a message that things are different.

This was a high school that had four lunch periods and just about 600 kids ate during each session. 
That’s a lot of kids. They ate in the cafeteria, in the commons area outside, and in a courtyard that was even further from the main part of the cafeteria. There were so many places to be.  As a result, we had teachers on duty with the administrators. (Some actually didn't mind having the duty because they got a chance to interact with the kids.)

This was a calm school, relatively, but it still had its share of issues from time to time. You know, kids wanting to try to leave campus, wandering into the woods to smoke,  arguing, throwing food, leaving trays or garbage, flaring tempers because someone looked at someone else in a bad way, and______________(fill in the blank…you probably will be right). Too often adults take lunch time for granted. It’s easy to. You have had a busy day, after all you would like some time to take a deep breath and just go…whew…but lunch…if you have duty is not the time.

Bathrooms are the biggest irritation. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not a good thing to lock the bathroom doors and say…”Tough”.  But…the bathroom creates issues, therefore some lucky adult is going to get bathroom duty (How many corporate big shots or elected officials have to do that…huh?!)

I have had numerous experiences with the bathrooms…for example, the soap dispensers that somehow offended someone and that person exacted revenge by punching a hole in the terrible soap container. There was the mysterious “let’s see how many paper towels it takes to cover every inch of the floor” phantom (Really…I’m not making this up!) and of course my all-time favorite the “I just had to write something profound on the wall” ghost.

No matter the school, no matter the age, no matter whether it is public or private…supervision is required. Kids can get bored and for some reason the bathroom is the appropriate place for losing their minds. I mean, after-all if you were in a good frame of mind would you want to hang-out in the bathroom?

So here is the point…

1.       Supervision is Important.

2.       Restrooms and the cafeteria or courtyards can attract issues.

3.       Have staff stop in restrooms when they are simply walking across campus.

4.       During lunch don’t get predictable and stay in one place or have enough staff participate in supervision that it allows you to be in more than one place at a time.

5.        Ask yourself, if I wanted to get away from the adults where would I go…then go there…

6.       We have so much to do, but we have to make time to be dad and mom before, during, and after school.

7.       Supervision is important

Just some thoughts about your daily routines as a school administrator….

So…have you checked the restrooms or behind the cafeteria, lately?