A Day In the Life

Back to School 101: Navigating the Hallway

By Douglas P Perkins (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

School is in full swing here, and, I imagine, everywhere else. For some of us, going back to school has become routine, whether it’s our fourteenth year or our fourth. For some of us, this may be an entirely new experience. Regardless of what year of teaching this is for you, the beginning of the school year can come with a lot of adjustments, road blocks, and awkward moments. Lucky for you, I’m here with some lifesaving tips on how to avoid some very awkward moments. More specifically, how to avoid those awkward moments while Navigating the Hallway [cue ominous echoing sound effect].

I’m not talking about how to crowd surf your way through the corridors of your school while avoiding the aromatic mosh pits of hormone addled tweens and teens. No, I’m talking about how to survive those uncomfortable moments when you’re strolling down a presumably empty hallway and encounter Another Adult [cue dun dun dun sound effect]. You may be one of those super outgoing, socially capable, gets-along-with-everyone types, and good for you. This post isn’t for you. This post is for those of us who sweat a little when put on the spot, those of us who stutter when speaking in front of adults, and those of us who carefully craft routes through the school to avoid any troublesome encounters. Maybe you’re one of those art teachers who is never in the hallway, aside from when you arrive and exit the building. Good for you. This post isn’t for you either. This post is for those of us who have to pee nine times a day, those of us who travel to the other side of the building to access our supply closets, and, those of us who, for whatever reason, just find ourselves in the hallway during the middle of the day.
Shall we get to it?

Art Teachers Hate Glitter’s Guide to Navigating the Hallway
It’s inevitable. At some point in your career, you’re going to find yourself waking down a hallway. Odds are, while you’re walking down this hallway, you’re going to encounter another human being. Not just another human being, but another adult human being. These encounters usually warrant some sort of human interaction. If you’re lucky, it’s the beginning of the day and a simple, “Good morning. How are you?” should suffice. Even if it’s the middle of the day you can get by with a, “Hey. How’s it going? Thank goodness the day’s almost over, huh?” The end of the day is safe too, what with idle chatter like, “How’d your day go? See you tomorrow,” and, “Thank god that’s over. Have a good night!” at your disposal. But if the gods are against you, then the chances are good that you’ll be running into the same person every time you leave your room. In this case, that stockpile of flippant chit chat isn’t going to cut it. There’s only so many times you can ask someone how their day is going before it gets old. Trust me. Here’s how I recommend you deal with these situations.
Avoid Eye Contact
It’s best not to look the other person in the eye. Always keep your head down while walking. Count the tiles. Take note of the interesting textures of the floor. Admire your freshly polished toesies. Whatever you do, don’t look up. Once you make eye contact with the other adult, you’re obligated to interact with them. I understand, in some cases, avoiding eye contact is easier said than done. Maybe you’re happily jaunting down the hallway, reveling in its quiet emptiness, you round the corner, and shit! You’ve unwittingly locked eyes with another adult at the end of the hall. Now what?
Bring A Prop
Always, always, always bring a prop whenever you leave the sanctity of your art room. This way, after the obligatory head nod, you can look away and focus on your prop. This is totally acceptable. Be aware though, it is important to choose your prop wisely. A clipboard of papers is the perfect prop. You can study it intently without the fear of interruption. Obviously it’s important that you get this information right now. Other teachers understand this. Our days are busy. We multitask.
Art supplies are good too. No one’s going to engage you in conversation when you’re carrying a bucket of dirty paintbrushes or a teetering tower of glazes, lest you ask them for help. Non art teachers hate touching icky art supplies. That’s a fact. Why do you think they’re always sending students to your room in search of pom poms and paint?
Student artwork is a gray area. Yes, transporting student artwork requires your undivided attention, thus rendering you incapable of small talk, however, you may be forced into conversation anyways. The other adult might actually ask you about the work. Don’t hold this against them; they’re just trying to survive the awkwardness of the hallway encounter too. Thankfully, should you be questioned about the work, you have now been provided with the perfect opening to engage the other adult in a conversation about clay techniques and why scoring and welding are so crucial. But what happens if you left your room and forgot to bring your prop?
Grab A Student
The hallways are very attractive to students. Students can’t resist the alluring call of an empty hallway. A student is bound to wander into your path and save the day. When one does, engage the student in greetings and conversation. Once the other adult has passed, you’re now free to continue on your merry way. But what’s that? You’re patiently waiting for a student to appear, but there are none in sight, and you’re beginning to panic? Stay calm. With some quick thinking you can come up with an excuse to pop into the closest classroom and “borrow” a student. Don’t worry, other teachers do this all the time. Now you can safely converse with the student while the other adult passes by. But what happens when you’re traversing the one hallway with no students or classrooms in sight?
Use Humor
I’m not asking you to make jokes. Heaven knows that isn’t going to go well for anyone. If you have no other options available you’re going to have to put yourself out there and provide some comedic relief. Trip. Stumble up the stairs (stairwells are just an extension of a hallway). Lose a shoe. Pass gas. Whatever route you choose, you both can laugh about your gaffe and move on with a smile. And bonus! Now you have something to talk about the next time you run into each other, “Hey, remember that time I let one rip? That was a doozy, huh? Guess I better cut back on the ole fiber, eh?” Please note, this follow-up scenario is only good for one encounter. Using it more than once is just sad.
Regardless of how you choose to survive the hallway encounter, remember, if you can’t think of anything pertinent, and semi-intelligent to say, Don’t. Say. Anything. At. All. A poorly constructed sentence of incoherent and disconnected words can only make things worse. You want to leave the other adult feeling good about your meetup and not wondering, “Is she on medication?”

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