RED LIGHT SPECIAL
What do you do when 150 middle schoolers eat lunch in a space designed for 100? At the school where First Year Teacher (actually now a second-year teacher) works, the solution is simple: install a stoplight.
They mechanically judge the noise level, turning yellow when the level is getting "too loud" and then turning red and making a screeching sound when it judges the level officially "too loud". When I got to the cafeteria on the first day of school I watched the teachers circle this thing curiously. We all eyed it suspiciously and waited. Sure enough, it was another "system" designed to make work for us.
First of all, the sensitivity is too low. The kids can't make a peep without this thing going off. Secondly, there are too many kids in a too small space-- so it isn't fair. They are going to be too loud for the space, of course. Thirdly, when it turns to red, the administration has asked us teachers to "monitor a one-minute silence" every time it goes off. Have you ever tried to make 150 8th graders be silent? Me neither, but it sounds like the surest way to an aneurysm I have ever heard.
Since first writing about the stoplight, First Year Teacher reports that administrators have since gotten a bit more realistic about keeping student noise to a dull roar. It's still hanging in the cafeteria, though, meaning the school could switch gears at any time.