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SOAPBOX: An observation on student behavior coming out of the pandemic

On  KJZZ's SOAPBOX, The Show turns over the the mic to listeners. Do you ever wonder what your kid's teacher is thinking? This week we're hearing from Arizona educators for the latest collection in our SOAPBOX series, where listeners tell their own true stories. This time the theme is The Classroom, and next up is elementary school teacher Marni Zarr, who braced herself this summer for another rough year, but it's turned out much different.  

Marni Zarr has her master's degree in elementary education and has been a public elementary school teacher for the past six years. Her favorite time of year is anytime she can wear a coat and carry a cup of coffee. 


The extinction of the hall pass

So far, this has not been the school year I expected. My students don’t need the constant direction or step by step basic social skills like last year. Is this the tail end of the pandemic? Finally closing on the chaos and opening for a fresh beginning? 

One Monday early in the school year, our school counselor commented that she loves seeing my smile as I leave the cafeteria. The kids are sitting, happily eating and talking. It’s not perfect, but it’s third grade normal, and it feels good.

Two days later, I attended a weekly administrative meeting and learn the reason my side of the building seems so quiet. 

On the other side of the building, the side that houses the classrooms for kids in kindergarten through second grade — there’s a runner. The district calls it eloping. 

At this meeting I learn about the young student who leaves their classroom without permission and runs the indoor halls — knocking on classroom doors — while the counselor, the psychologist, the Title 1 specialist, the nurse, the principal and the instructional coach block the building doors to keep the student from leaving. 

Six adults to one child. The child is not physically hurting themself or anyone else so they can’t be touched. 

It didn’t stop. 

Four weeks into the school year, the student was still eloping daily. 

I wonder what the student’s parents know? This question rests on the tip of my tongue, but most of my questions in meetings only get that far. I’m too afraid to speak. I’m still catching on to district protocol and since the child is not in my class I don’t want to burden the staff by being the person who pops in with a question that would best be saved for later.

One of my colleagues does ask about the bulletin boards this child has destroyed and the books they’ve ripped apart. What about the destruction, the money spent by taxpayers for the few precious supplies that are provided and the time and money spent by the teacher? 

The answer: It’s the teacher’s responsibility. 

The teachers at our school love to teach. We didn’t sign up for destructive behaviors. Where are this kid’s guardians? Why would a child do this? Why are we four weeks into the school year and the school team is still collecting data on this daily behavior? What about the mental and emotional impact on the rest of the kids in this child’s class and the surrounding classrooms? What, if anything, will the school and district do? What can they do? 

I’m not against this kid! Or any kid! I’m against a system that allows this because of the way public schools are underfunded, the way public schools suffer at the hands of the Arizona Legislature and parental lawsuits. 

I can only hope I stay on the good side of whoever is in charge of class assignments next year. 

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