Looking Beyond the Classroom

Studies of school violence have shown that a large majority of violent incidents in schools occur in areas other than the classroom, such as hallways between periods and after school, libraries, locker rooms, parking lots and cafeterias. The reason for this is because of the lack of teacher or adult presence in these places during certain parts of the day.

Teachers, whether part of their training or not, have been shown to be more apt to intervene in incidents in their own classrooms than in those that happen outside their own class. Studies have shown that teachers feel more personal responsibility to keep their classrooms safe and don’t feel that same sense of responsibility when they witness a violent incident outside of their own room. Surprisingly, many teachers in one survey noted that they didn’t feel that keeping those other areas of the school secure was part of their job. Right or wrong, this definitely has bearing on the where and when incidents of school violence take place. Most students wouldn’t dare pick a fight right in front of an authority figure, but by knowing that there are few to no adults taking responsibility or paying attention to certain other areas of the school, well, then there’s a better chance of getting away with violence or any other type of crime—and they know it.

The most interesting part of this all is that in the same survey it was the students themselves who admitted that they would be less likely to do anything in these common areas is the adults present were teachers who had a personal connection to the place and students as opposed to a hired hall monitor or security guard. That same study concluded that the teachers and students and school administrators all agreed that the best type of violence intervention would be that of having more teachers present in these areas who would be willing and ready to intervene if needed.

With all of the cutbacks in school funding that we face today, most schools cannot afford to hire more teachers, but this doesn’t mean that the teachers in your school can’t come together to keep those hallways, cafeterias and locker rooms safe. As a teacher you can make a conscious effort to define your role in the event of school violence. That same responsibility and ownership that you feel in your own classroom should extend beyond your doorway and into the school that houses your class as well as all those students. By taking some extra time to make your presence known in those areas simply by just walking through them and having a look around, you could be helping to prevent violence in your school.