Mamacita says: Back in the public schools, I never had very many study halls. I taught seven academic classes daily, and my colleague Pam and I didn’t even know we were the only teachers in the system to teach seven academics daily. Everybody else taught five, or even four, and had study halls. They all pitied us. We pitied them.
We learned that we had a bigger academic load than anybody else while traveling in a system van to a workshop. The other English teachers – from every middle school in the system – could not believe Pam and I had seven classes daily, and we couldn’t believe they didn’t.
Given a choice – which public school teachers are seldom allowed to do – I would choose an academic subject over a study hall any day. I hated study halls. I hated them when I was in high school and was required to take one, and I hated them even more as a teacher. I seldom had severe problems with students in an academic class, and most of the problems I did have were in a study hall.
I know that a study hall used to be a standard thing for almost every student. Once upon a time, a study hall was a good place for a student to relax a little, and get most of his/her homework done. The room was quiet and there was always a teacher in charge, who could help with assignments and tutor.
Now, a study hall is a dumping ground for non-participatory students, and these kids don’t want to “participate” in a study hall, either.
Back in the middle school, some kids had two or three study halls EVERY SINGLE DAY. Even a kid who DID homework didn’t need that much non-structured time. These kids wouldn’t have done any work for love or money, and having to put up with them time and time again in the course of a day, times 180 days, was more frustrating, nerve-wracking, and just plain horrible than teaching the most difficult of academic subjects.
Students got a citizenship grade for study hall, and many of them received exactly what they earned: an “F”, for “failure to behave like a decent human being.” They failed study hall. Unbelievable, isn’t it.
Most study halls have only two rules: Bring something to do. Sit quietly and do it.
What kind of kid flunks study hall? What’s so difficult about bringing a book or even a sheet of paper and a pencil to a classroom every day, when you KNOW you’re going to be written up and sent back to get “something to do” every time?
What kind of kid argues with a teacher daily about how “I ain’t GOT nothing to do!” and is genuinely horrified at the very idea of being asked to “just bring a book to read, or paper to write on.” Some kids are endurable only when they’re head-down on the desk, snoring away, but even that was too much to ask of some of these non-participatory kids.
All they wanted to do was talk, and bother people, and make trouble. They wanted to talk on their phones, and text each other, and listen to music. They wanted to roam around the room annoying people, and they wanted passes to roam the hallways and destroy things.
In study hall, even though it was against the rules, I let them use their Mp3 players and Walkmen, and that helped somewhat, but there was always a segment of teen society that refused to do ANYTHING except disrupt and prevent other kids from getting anything productive done.
Study Hall. Kids are failing STUDY HALL. They try to walk in the room with nothing in their hands, day after day, and they don’t want to do anything. They don’t see why they have to stay seated. They make demands. They want to talk. They don’t have enough, in their extra-light load, to keep them busy, and it’s because they don’t WANT to be busy. They want to play, on school time. This is unacceptable behavior.
It’s a lousy school system that doesn’t require every student to carry a full schedule of some sort, but it’s an even lousier person who opts for the lightest of all possible schedules and then proceeds to ruin all chances of productivity for everybody else.
So yes, definitely, I would MUCH prefer an extra-heavy academic load, rather than deal with a study hall.
Now, of course, most of my students are adults who want to get the very most out of their second chance at an education, and hardly a day passes when one of them mentions that he’d give anything to have a study hall now, where he could get a lot of his classwork done and have a teacher always there for any help that might be needed.
It’s too bad that our kids have to put up with the kind of behaviors they have to sit beside every day.
It’s even worse that our schools have administrations that force everybody to put up with those behaviors.