Recently I was on the Ukiah High School campus for a meeting, and as I walked to my destination, I was almost taken aback at the volume level of conversations between the high school students. The conversation sound level was so…chill.
In middle school, when students talk to each other, they often turn their vocal volume up to a nine or a ten. Sometimes they shriek, sometimes they yell, sometimes they howl, sometimes they will run from one side of the campus to the other, go up to a friend, bark in their face, and then immediately run away again.
It’s not to say we don’t have students who are quieter. We do, but there are not that many of them.
The 2021-22 school year is my fourteenth year working at Eagle Peak Middle School, and I think I will never become accustomed to the sound levels at middle school. Yesterday I was plinking out an email in my office, and I heard students high pitch screaming from somewhere outside. I radioed the campus supervisor to inquire if there was a problem. “They are fine,” the campus supervisor reported. The screaming continued for thirty seconds longer, so I asked again. “Yep, they’re good…they’re having a great time,” the supervisor assured me.
“Huh,” I thought to myself and went back to plinking.
On most days during lunchtime, a big truck will drive by on West Road in Redwood Valley and blast its horn. Dozens of students will yell back at the truck to greet it, having no idea who it is, and then go back to whatever noises they were making.
In the spring, it’s the wind. When you have wind gusts over twenty miles per hour or so, students will spontaneously start whooping. And if it is windy and raining, many morph into shrieking banshees and start running at full speed with no apparent destination.
During food breaks, a student will stomp on an empty milk carton every once in a while to make a fairly thunderous pop for general entertainment purposes. This is not allowed, but I will take it over an empty and muted campus on pandemic lockdown in a heartbeat.
Ultimately one must inquire as to the nature of all the clamor. Why so loud? I am pleased to share that the answer is simple and beautiful: it comes from a place of sheer joy. In middle school, friendships and relationships are everything, and the volume of utterances can be just as joyfully communicative as actual words. I think the decibel levels are higher this year as our students have missed their friends.
Speaking of sound, we have our first deejayed dance of the year coming up in May. With the flowers in full bloom as well as hormones, it should be nothing but epic as it will be the first middle school dance for most of our students.
We are also looking forward to several performances from our school band before the end of the year. Our band teacher, Mr. Golde, told me that the students had been working hard to learn how to play the Ukrainian national anthem. I was silent and moved. We will be listening.