Finding My Way #sol22 3/31

We don’t have many extra duties at my school, but we are tasked with clearing the halls of the dozens of kids who tend to linger and chat well after the bell rings. Three times a day (six on non-block days), I postpone starting my own class so that I can get other teachers’ students to class.

The models I have for hall duty (we call them hall mentors) are very tall people with big booming voices that can pierce through the noise of a hundred kids talking, laughing, yelling.

“Head to class!” they bellow. “Walk and talk! You got one minute!”

They can be heard over all the noise. They’re projecting their voices, not yelling. They sound concerned but never mean. And kids move.

I am a short person with a small voice.

“Head to class!” I try to project my voice, but it comes out like a whisper. Wearing a thick mask doesn’t help my volume. “The bell just rang.”

Three kids bump into me because they didn’t see me standing there. No one makes a move to head to class. And now my throat hurts.

A colleague with a background in theater and speech tries to teach me how to project my voice from my diaphragm, but it’s hopeless. When I try to project, I sound mean and strained. And still too quiet. I am always relieved when a much louder teacher (basically anyone else in the building) shows up to help with the clearing. Being loud isn’t my way.

Except then I notice that some of the louder teachers don’t always sound so nice. They’re yelling at kids. The kids often escalate with attitude. The teacher sometimes escalates with anger. Everyone goes to class cranky. That can’t be my way either.

It’s Fezzik and Vizzini who get me thinking. I keep replaying that scene from The Princess Bride in my mind. What’s my way?

And so I try something new. I go up to kids and talk to them in my regular voice. They have to lean down to hear me.

“How’s your morning going?” I ask. “It’s so good to see you.”

And we have a conversation. What class do you have next? What’s your favorite class? What are you looking forward to on this fine Thursday morning? Do you need anything? Are you almost ready to wrap up what you’re doing here and head to class?

It takes a minute. But it’s kind of magical. Because kids say yeah, I’m about ready. And mostly they are. I head to my room, and they head to theirs.

“I wish I could do that,” I tell Mr. C one day as he clears forty kids out of the hall with one very loud “Walk and talk!”

“My big voice is my gift,” he tells me. “When someone needs to clear the halls, they call me. You’ve got a quiet voice. When a kid needs someone to look out for them, I send them to you. That’s your gift.”

Clearing the halls will probably never be my “pocket of joy”–but I am learning to appreciate and even treasure the interactions I can have with kids even as I’m trying to redirect their behavior.


My theme for Slice of Life 2022 is finding inspiration in the writing of others. Each day I plan to find my slice in someone else’s words or forms. Today’s inspiration came from a post called Pocket of Joy–Morning Duty at The Librarian’s Journey.






13 responses to “Finding My Way #sol22 3/31”

  1. sallydonnelly11 Avatar

    I really like how you crafted this piece by starting with the dialogue from one of my favorite movies. A great hook!

  2. BeReal81 Avatar

    You had me with The Princess Bride! I have a big booming voice and have had to learn I really only want to use it in very rare situations. I really like your inspiration idea for this year. Happy Slicing!

  3. Juliana Ellington Avatar
    Juliana Ellington

    I’m always ready for a movie quote from one of the best movies of all time! There’s a lot of wisdom in using your own strengths and in thinking beyond what works for someone else. And I love the kindness in your approach, which supports Fezzic’s discomfort with bashing people with rocks (or in your case: bashing students with yelling.)

  4. Trina Avatar

    I loved the Princess Bride Reference! So great! What a gift for your colleague to notice how you have a quiet voice – I am sure that this is magical with students!

    Clearing the hall is NEVER my thing!

  5. arjeha Avatar

    Just shows that there is more than one way to clear the halls. We all have our talents and strong points. I think yours is the better of the two,

  6. Patricia J Holloway Avatar

    How sweet to find your lane! I love it! Those booming voices can be startling, not endearing.

  7. evarkaplan Avatar

    First off, The Princess Bride is one of my all time favorite movies. I love that you quoted from it. My daughter had a fifth grade teacher many years ago who had the softest voice. (I could barely hear her during our parent teacher conferences.) And yet, she had complete control of her class. Her classroom management was the best I’d ever seen. It amazed me. She never raised her voice. Never. And she spoke in almost a whisper. I believe her students learned to really listen to her. I find myself having to remind myself to stop talking and wait for quiet instead of getting louder to be heard. It’s a horrid habit that many teachers develop. The truth is, you’re never heard when you’re yelling above the crowd. I love how your colleague shared his observation of your gift of caring.

  8. natashadomina Avatar

    Oh, I love this. It’s interesting–the ending of this piece that I received in my email inbox is different than the ending I’m reading now that I’ve come to your site. I think that last paragraph as you reflect on this change in mindset (and strategy) gives a nice wrap up, and I also really like the other ending I read–where you essentially ended with “That’s your gift.” That ending made me catch my breath with its powerful statement on what’s important. Another part I love is where you describe the hall mentors with their booming voices and contrast that with your attempt to be like them. I’m sure you were more effective than your writing lets on, but the exaggeration (“Three kids bump into me because they didn’t see me standing there. No one makes a move to head to class. And now my throat hurts.”) made me chuckle. This piece is such a gift to the quiet teachers.

  9. jarhartz Avatar

    Whenever there is :”trouble” or non compliance I’m always most effective with a quiet conversation. A simple are you alright, or can I help usually quiets them down. But I’m talking to 10 year olds. High School would be a whole other story… I suppose that booming voice is good for emergencies, but it wouldn’t be my way even if I had to clear the halls!

  10. […] slice was inspired by Elisabeth Ellington’s words — my way. Wander on over to her blog for a bit of […]

  11. livinglife816287820 Avatar

    We all have a special gift and I love this slice and the way you worked it, so you make it clear not everyone needs that big, booking voice!!

  12. livinglife816287820 Avatar

    booming not booking!

  13. mschiubookawrites Avatar

    As a daily hallway clearer, this piece resonates. I love the dialogue snippets, observations of follow through, and the ending about different gifts. It reminds me of my first year teaching middle school (after teaching elementary for five years) when a seasoned colleague said, you just got to be you. That was the best advice ever.

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