You probably wouldn't think about it unless you were a sixth grade teacher, but when most kids come to middle school, they have absolutely no experience opening a combination lock. Receiving a locker assignment is no less than a rite of passage. Picture if you will, hundreds of 11- and 12-year-olds crowded in along banks of narrow lockers, gripping their combinations in sweaty hands and desperately twirling the dials on their padlocks. Right Left Right is a totally foreign concept to them. Skip the second number once before stopping on it? Ludicrous! What do you mean I have to start from the beginning if I miss one of the numbers?
Twenty minutes of utter chaos always marks the third day of school, but it's one of my favorite mornings of the year. To start with, the kids are so excited to be getting a locker at all. Four cubic feet of property to call their own in the vastness of our school must be very reassuring. The whole combination thing is challenging for most, but not so frustrating as to be impossible, and it's really easy for the staff to assist anyone who is stuck.
By the end of the day, upwards of 80 percent of the sixth graders can open their lockers unassisted, and it will be everyone before a week has passed. Their faces shine with pride when they feel the lock give way to their tug and hear that satisfying click. They love their lockers, and they are very appreciative to those who have helped them learn a skill that is so valuable to them.
If only all of teaching could be like that.