Eight phone calls before lunch. Eight!

Call One:

“Hello, Robin?”

“No, it’s Dawn.”

“Can I speak to Robin?”

“No. You have the wrong number.”

“I really need Robin.”

Then call her! Click… “I’m sorry, you’ll have to call her. Bye.” Now, where were we–somewhere between me having your attention and you throwing that pencil at that kid’s head while I hung up on phone calls.

Calls Two and Three

“Can you send Joe to the office?”  I stop class. I write a pass. I lose the class. Joe comes back five minutes later with a detention slip. I lose the class again.

Call four

“Can you send Chris to guidance?”

I stop class. I write a pass. I lose the class. Chris comes back five minutes later and I lose the class again. They needed to confirm his address.

Call Five, Six, and Seven.

Guidance. Nurse. Two calls from attendance asking for the same kid.

“Is she there.”

“Not today. Absent.”

“She’s supposed to be there…”

“Absent!” Click.


“I’m still looking for her. She’s supposed to be there but the front desk said you said she wasn’t there.”


School interruptions are a plague. If you’ve ever had a class of thirty kids, with only three who like school, then been interrupted every thirty seconds while trying to teach something you were trying to make fun–you haven’t lived.

Between fire drills, repeat phone calls, people knocking on the door, and other unnecessary interruptions, it is very difficult to teach a class.

In the business world they talk about focus, inbox zero, or compartmentalizing workflow for maximum productivity.

That’s a pipe dream in a school. None of that is possible–if you can’t multitask, you’re done. But 97% of the interruptions to my class are unnecessary. They aren’t kids coming in late or asking to go to the bathroom. They’re adults, oblivious to how much disturbance their interruption is causing. And generally they’re the same adults with mission-noncritical interruptions that can be better incorporated into a flow that also saves them time.

What can be done?

Email. Use email to do things like confirming information, sending notifications, and checking in with high school kids. For little kids, it may need a note home. There’s never a reason to call an older kid out of class if you an email him.

“But kids don’t respond and they won’t come to their detention.”

Then teach them to respond by giving them two if they don’t see the first one. In the real world, they’ll need to look for their boss or client’s email and they’ll have to respond. It’s a great lesson, and it’s passing on the personal responsibility to the person who needs to receive the communication.

Think before you call. Unless it’s urgent, I don’t call people during class. I don’t even keep a printed phone list for that reason. I email or text. If you do email, get to the point. Long emails are just as interruptive as calls in the middle of class.

Consider the flow of the interruptions. Class meetings? Fire drills? A lot of these things are planned. Are they important enough to get in the way of teaching, though? Last year we had a safety drill during my class’ final exam. My exam was on the calendar, and there was only this one period to take it because school was ending. Yes, we’re mandated to have safety drills but there are 179 other days that are not final exams.  My kids were happy–I gave them an unreasonable amount of extra credit on the exam. But, the exam wasn’t valid.

Use technology to the fullest. There can be a digital bulletin board, announcements on the school website, or a physical bulletin board in the hall. Make info available in a consistent place and let people access it. Don’t push it through calls and interruptions that lose class time.

Take a walk on the wild side.  Believe it or not, it’s less of an interruption to walk into a classroom than to call, and the visit is nice. I take a walk during my lunch or free period and peek in on people. If it’s a good time, I’ll go in.

Make a policy on interruptions. After a million interruptions a day, I stopped sending kids to wherever, and once I even failed to report my broken phone. This is important enough to be a faculty meeting discussion on process. If the interruptions are coming from the same place, address it with that person. They have a job to get done and may not think you mind. They don’t see the compounding effects on your lesson.

Communicate, and look for ways to make the processes in your building non-interruptive so you don’t end up fuming by lunch.

A little bit of outside the box thinking and an ounce of attention and you’ll get a flow that leaves you at peace.