why “six minutes of separation”?

NOTE: After changing locations in 2014, the passing periods at my school are no longer 6 minutes — but rather 8. After briefly changing the title of my blog to reflect this, I decided that the title “six minutes of separation” just had a nicer “ring” — and also, the original title was a play on the phrase “six degrees of separation — so I changed it back. This post was written when I worked at a school at which they were six.

In case you’re curious about the significance of the time denomination in the sub-title of this blog, there’s a very simple explanation:

Six minutes is the length of the passing periods at our high school.


If you’re unfamiliar with the way schools generally work: This is the amount of time that students have in between classes to get from one locale to the next.1 2

That’s if you’re a student.

For us teachers, six minutes is all the separation that we get to catch our breath and collect ourselves.

Rough morning class push you to the verge of breaking down in tears? 3 Take six minutes, buck up, and head back out to the battlefield!

Six minutes is also all we get to run to the restroom in between classes.4

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Up until a couple of years ago, the passing periods used to be 7 minutes (and there would be a “warning” bell at the 6 minute mark), but when the current leadership team took over in 2011, one of the first changes they made was shortening the passing periods to 5 minutes.

The reaction? Think: New Coke, 1985.5

About a month or so into the campaign, the admin team kindly gave us back a minute, to make it an even 6. 6

. . .

Back in the days of “seven minutes of separation”, I used to be able to make it down to the teacher’s lounge, brew up a new pot of coffee, fill up my coffee mug, and make it back to my class in time for the tardy bell — all without breaking a leisurely stride. When the passing periods were shortened to 5 minutes7, this was no longer possible. 8

That’s when I decided that I needed to invest in one of these:


I also have a microwave9 now to complement the coffee maker10 but NOT a refrigerator.11

  1. Of course, most kids spend about 5 minutes and 59 seconds socializing before making any attempt to get to their next class. #sadlife↩︎
  2. Our school is rather large, and this is not always a lot of time!↩︎
  3. Well, I mean, I’m a guy, so I don’t cry, of course, but… yeah.↩︎
  4. Not being able to use the restroom at one’s convenience may seriously be one of the biggest adjustments a grown-up has to make upon entering the world of teaching. Given that our classes are 90 minutes in length, we only have a couple of legitimate opportunities each day to allow nature to call. Because of this, I’ve had to exercise discretion when making decisions about what, when, and how much to eat for both breakfast and lunch. Seriously.↩︎
  5. You know… rioting, strikes, objects being thrown through windows in protest… okay NOT really. But Will M’s humorous skit at Mr. Mav that year played this theme out as such =) ↩︎
  6. I wonder… if they changed the length of our passing periods again, would I rename this blog? Hmmmm….↩︎
  7. and even later when they were amended to 6↩︎
  8. My old classroom in upper-C was on the opposite corner of our large campus from the teacher’s lounge. Of course, now that I’m in a different location, perhaps a coffee run might be possible…↩︎
  9. which is not a very great microwave, truth be told↩︎
  10. which is not a very great coffee maker↩︎
  11. I considered it once, but thought: At that point, why not just wave the white flag, surrender any semblance of a social life, bring in a sleeping bag, and just live at school? No, a fridge would be an over-the-line form of surrender, I concluded.↩︎