Guest Column: Should teachers get involved in hall monitoring?

By Tim Hughes

It’s being said District 205 teachers are afraid to go into the halls of their schools. The question we need to ask is, would they be afraid to do so, had they never left those halls in the first place?

I am referring to the district policy in place for many years that required teachers at the secondary level to do 25 minutes of hall monitoring every day of the week, every other week of the school year, for a total of 250 minutes of hall duty a month.

Teachers were assigned to patrol a specific area of the building, and unless a parent needed to see them during that time, or there was some other pressing school-related matter requiring their attention, they were expected to be at their post.

These assignments came under the heading of in-house security and were effective. Many teachers looked forward to hall duty as an opportunity to catch up on paper work. Some, however, began whining that hall duty was professionally demeaning, and pressure was put on the union to free them from that responsibility.

At the mass meeting arranged by the teachers’ union to inform members of contract provisions for the coming school year, cheers and applause broke out when it was announced teachers would no longer be required to do hall duty, but before the first week of the school year was over, teachers were using their newfound freedom to complain about all the noise and running in the halls. That was just the beginning.

The situation was rapidly escalating out of control, so a decision was made to hire hall monitors from the outside. That only made matters worse. Due to the low-paying, entry-level nature of the job, hall monitoring didn’t attract the best people. Many of them were only a short time removed from high school themselves, leading to inappropriate fraternization between students and hall monitors that included forging administrator names on hall passes and, in one case, accusations that a hall monitor had sexually abused a student.

Teachers can’t have it both ways.  For entirely too long, they have been the beneficiaries of a trusting public’s good will. Because they are teachers, the assumption is they will act in their students’ best interest. Such is not always the case, especially when it comes to creating comfort zones for themselves, and teacher comfort zones are never based on sound educational policy! Is it less professionally demeaning to try teaching when the classroom walls are coming down around you because there is no adequate supervision in the halls? Granted, teachers are hired to teach, not break up fights, but if they can’t teach because of the fights, they need to involve themselves in solving the problem. Teachers as hall monitors would have leverage over students that not even the police would be able to provide! It is time, therefore, for teachers to go back to the halls!

Tim Hughes is a former teacher in Rockford School District 205 who coached debate and taught English at Auburn High School for 20 years.

From the Jan. 20-26, 2010 issue

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