Setting The Books Free
School lockers are evidently going away:
Once the gravitational center of the high school day, lockers long ago lost their allure, and their usefulness seems a relic of an epoch of education that has slipped away. Movies and television shows about high schools may still feature students decorating lockers — or being shoved into them — but in the real world, lockers have all but been abandoned. The trend has expanded so rapidly and widely that schools are now removing individual student lockers from their hallways, and builders and designers for many new high schools don’t even include them in their plans.
“It’s a pretty big change that has taken place over the last few years,” said Sean Connor, a principal with Pfluger Architects, a large Texas firm that focuses on school construction. “It used to be the standard to provide individual lockers for every student. Now, the standard is no lockers or, at most, just a few.”
So, why the change? Anyone with a high schooler in their orbit knows that students now want everything they own with them all of the time. Books, phones, water bottles, headphones, laptops, tablets, snacks, coats, extra shoes. Where students used to swap out textbooks between classes, they now navigate the halls bent over by jam-packed backpacks like Himalayan Sherpas shuffling along without a base camp. This carryall approach probably ensures a steady stream of patients for chiropractors, and it bewilders parents who don’t understand why their kids can’t just use an assigned locker to store their stuff.
A few years ago I had read that lockers weren’t being used like they used to. I guess it makes sense that they would stop putting them in schools.
I get a kick out of this because for once I was way ahead of my time. For most of my high school career, I didn’t use my locker. In fact, one year I even sold use of it to someone else. A lot of my reasons match those of young people today. I went to a very large school and it was often impossible to go from classroom to classroom with a trip to the locker in between within seven minutes. And who wanted to spend precious lunch time making that journey? In middle school lockers were a big deal because you had time to use them (five minutes between classes, but a much smaller school). They were the closest thing you had to a mailing address. But high school? What a hassle.
My mind was changed when I got a good look at myself. On television, in fact. Our school had a weekly “news” program done by students. There was this really funny kid that did a traffic report of various hallway congestion (including one hallway known for its endless traffic jams). There was video of that and lo and behold, there I was.
All told my books weighed quite a lot. I had a large enough duffel to carry all of it. And I was a pretty big guy. But even so, it’s hard to carry 25 pounds in a bag without slouching. At the time, I was in between being fat and thin but the slouch that came with lugging that around accentuated the not-thin. Also, I determined, I needed a haircut.
So I asked Mom if I could get a more traditional backpack. I kicked the occupant of my locker out. I sacrificed 5-10 minutes of my 30-minute lunch period. But by god I was not going to look so terrible walking down the hallways.
And I didn’t.
Within the week, I was getting compliments about how something had changed. They’d note the hair cut but say it wasn’t that. I’m relatively sure it was the posture.
I suppose I am impressed by the grit of the young folks. Maybe I would have been able to get by if I had a proper backpack instead of a duffel. They just didn’t make backpacks large enough back then, but maybe they’re larger now? Or maybe the books are smaller or they didn’t tell the reporter that they were leaving them behind.
Either way, I can’t really make a big show about “kids these days” when they’re mostly just circling around to what I did (until I didn’t do it anymore).
Image by vauvau