The Walkie Talkie

Middle School Classroom

I got a call right before our fire drill, asking me to help with the day’s procedure. I took a deep breath, scared of the responsibility. I’m a principal intern in my building this year, and I’m usually excited to try new things about this role. But, there was something about this one that made me scared.

What if kids didn’t leave when the bell went off? What if there are kids in the bathroom? I pictured kids trying to hide themselves in their lockers, and other kids taking the evacuation of the building as a way to run the halls and do cartwheels.

Sometimes, our minds just think the worst of the situation.

When I got to the office, the worst thing DID happen though. (Okay, I’m being dramatic, but still.) The principals handed me a walkie talkie, and then walked away, figuring out other plans and procedures.

And, I panicked. How was I supposed to walkie-and-talkie if I didn’t know how to use a walkie talkie?

I know it seems silly, but I just didn’t know what buttons to push so that the other people involved could hear my voice. And I needed help. But, I froze up, deer-in-headlights, and couldn’t seem to ask for help. I didn’t want to seem silly for not knowing how to use a walkie talkie. That seemed like such a minor detail, and I figured that the principals didn’t have time to answer my silly, small questions.

It then made me think about my students. Especially in my largest class of 33 kids, there have to be students sitting in my room who don’t speak up when they don’t understand.

So, how can we best help kids?

  1. Obviously, have a welcoming environment where the kids know they can trust you. If kids are afraid that you will demean their question, they certainly won’t ask.
  2. Keep an eye out for the deer-in-the-headlights. Sometimes, kids will show you with their eyes. I know I sure did in the office!
  3. Walk around after you give directions and get them started to ask if they have questions. Sometimes, I ask them how their day is going, and they tend to just blurt out whatever is on their mind.
  4. Have an area in your room where kids can write you notes if they feel uncomfortable talking about it. I have a mailbox where students can submit their questions, ideas, and thoughts.
  5. Create a question procedure so kids know how to ask questions. When we are writing long-form essays, I use my deli counter in order for every kid to have a chance to get help, and my attention doesn’t just go to the same kids who are brave enough to raise their hands. (Use my template below!)

What else do you do in your classroom to make students feel comfortable to ask if they are stuck?

One thought on “The Walkie Talkie

  1. Don’t worry, most of us do not know what to do with the walkie-talkie either! Great parallel to your students. Whether we are principals with interns or teachers with students… we need to anticipate mis- and pre-conceptions but MOST IMPORTANTLY, create a climate and environment where people can ask questions and overcome the “I fill so dum” to remove barriers to growth.


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