Mr. Barry’s Classroom



(Based on a true story)

The film opens on a small, packed classroom, desks arranged in curved semicircular rows.  One side of the classroom seems to be embroiled in some kind of war with the other side.  Children are yelling, throwing balls of crumpled up paper, and generally causing mayhem throughout the classroom.  A young, well-dressed teacher sits at a desk at the front of the room, his head in his hands.  Behind him, the blackboard reads “Good morning, class,” and below that, “Mr. Barry.” 

The teacher slowly lifts his head and yells at the class.

“All right, children, it’s time for recess!”

The class is quiet for just a moment, but quickly ignores Mr. Barry and resumes their yelling and fighting.

“Class, I said it’s time for recess! Get your coats and head outside!”

This time the class remains silent.  Finally, one of the boys on the left of the classroom speaks up.

“Mr. Barry, I don’t think we’re going to have recess today.”

The teacher looks exasperated.

“Harry, of course you’re going to have recess.  It’s on the schedule.  Every day, this class goes out to recess.  That’s just the way it is.  The founders of this school decided that children need exercise during the day, so they put recess in the schedule, and it’s been that way ever since.”

Another boy from the other side of the room pipes up.

“But Mr. Barry, we don’t need to have recess to get exercise.  Some of us will just take hall passes and go outside to play while a few of us stay here in the classroom, and then we’ll switch off.  We’ll all get plenty of exercise but we’ll never actually have to go to recess!  Isn’t that a genius plan, Mr. Barry?”

The teacher sighs.

“Mitch, that’s insane.  Why wouldn’t you all want to go to recess together?  Besides, you know I can’t grade your homework until you’re all out at recess.”

Both boys smile.

“Yes, Mr. Barry, we know.”

The classroom resumes its chaos and mayhem.  The teacher buries his head in his hands again, seemingly at a loss for what to do.  Eventually, he looks up, his face a mask of desperate anger.

“Fine!  Stay here!  I don’t care!  I say you’re at recess, so you’re at recess!”

He stands up abruptly and stomps over to the file cabinet, retrieving the answer key before sitting down to grade the children’s homework, red pen flying across the pages.

The camera pans to the door of the classroom.  A shadow approaches.  A man with oddly styled gray hair and large, thick glasses looms in the doorway. 

“Mr. Barry, what the deuce is going on here?  Explain yourself!”

The teacher looks up, startled. 

“Principal Sentelle, I, uh, I was, uh, just grading some papers –“

“I can see that, Mr. Barry.  Why is young Mr. Durbin here shooting a spitball at Mr. McConnell?”

The teacher smiles grimly.

“I’ve no idea, Principal, but I hardly think it’s my responsibility.  The class is at recess, after all.”

The principal looks over to the left side of the classroom.

“Mr. Reid, is this true?  Is the class at recess?  Why are you not outside, enjoying this fine weather?”

The boy grins.

“No, Principal Sentelle, we’ve decided not to have recess today.  We’d rather continue the work of learning and enriching our young minds than spend our time out on the monkey bars.”

The principal turns back to the teacher.

“Well, Mr. Barry, there you have it.  The class is well within its rights to decide not to go to recess.  And what’s more, Mr. Barry, is that homework I see on your desk?  Surely you’re not grading homework with children in the classroom?”

The teacher looks startled.

“But sir, they were at recess!  When else am I supposed to grade their homework?  You know we tried having them switch papers and grade each other—remember how badly that failed?”

The principal looks grim and shakes his head slowly.

“I understand your plight, Mr. Barry, and I sympathize.  But school regulations make it clear that this is how it has to be.  I think Superintendent Scalia would agree with me on this—you simply can’t grade homework with children in the classroom.”

The principal turns around and walks out, clearly glad to be leaving the noisy, chaotic classroom.  He shuts the door with a bang.

The teacher turns back to the class and surveys the mayhem with a worn-out, despondent look.  He looks down and murmurs.

“I knew I should have left this job to Mr. Mittens.  He would have solved this whole recess problem on day one.”

Nathan Reeves is a 1L. His column runs every other Tuesday.

The views in opinion editorials, columns, and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of The Record.

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