The Sixth Grade Experience: Lockers

HIGHLINER Locker Article

By Sophia Lande

It’s the first day of Middle School, the first day of all these new, big changes in your school life. You scurry to your homeroom after receiving your schedule and your ID Badge. Following the introductory talk about what it will be like in middle school this year to all the bright-eyed, excited students, you eagerly walk towards your first challenge. Lockers. Many kids have success with opening their lockers after the first few tries, but others aren’t so lucky. I spoke to 6th grader Izzy Leyton and 7th grader Renee Cai, who both had opinions about their lockers.

            Leyton spoke about the hardest part of opening her locker. “I think that you have to have the patience to do it. On the first day, everyone just wants to open their locker. So the most patient people probably opened it first.” “...The first day, I couldn’t open it, but after a few days I caught on to it, because it’s just about turning the locks the right way,”  she said.

When asked what the easiest part was, Leyton replied that the easiest part was knowing which direction to spin the lock, since they explained ‘go to the left, then to the right’, “ was easy for me to do it in theory, but it was more difficult actually doing it in real life.”

When asked about if she wished her locker was bigger, Cai also expressed some difficulty with her locker. She said,, “...Every other day I have to bring a violin, which means trekking up to the second floor and down in the morning. The task might sound small, but it takes at least five minutes, and I know plenty of people who have been marked late because of it. We have to do this because our violins don’t fit in our lockers, so it would be amazing if that would be possible.”

I also know other people that have instruments such as a clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and violin that have to leave their instruments outside their locker or in another storage place on a different floor. Personally, with my winter coat, all of my belongings are cramped in my locker.

Whether you get a top or a bottom locker is also a key feature you don’t realize is important until later the year goes on.  Leyton replied, “I have a lower locker. I feel like with a lower locker you are the ‘second person’ because the person with the top locker always gets to go first. I also think that you get banged in the head a lot, so it isn’t as comfortable as having an upper locker. I think of it as ‘first class’ and ‘second class’ ”

Decorating your locker is also a key part of the locker experience in middle grades. It is one thing that can make this privilege even more special. “ Personally, I like my locker to be simple so I have the space to put my extra belongings, which includes a tennis racquet. But I know lots of other people that decorate their lockers. ” Says Cai.

Although locker present challenges, there is a feeling of accomplishment once you know you can always open one. You might even be able to help other students in the future, if you become an expert.  “I felt success, I thought ‘I am a real middle schooler now’. Because now that I can do this, this part of middle school won’t be hard.”

I asked Izzy about how she would teach/explain to another student to open their locker, and she said, “I would probably do it for them the first time, and then show them how you reset it and how you have to turn it. I maybe even would make a picture for them because I know that is something they did in the assembly.”

Faced with the question of what her favorite part of her locker was, Leyton responded: “In some ways I like the lock being there, and in others, I don’t. In the Lower School of some people stealing/taking your stuff so when you think of it that way, it’s a protection of the next level. Also, the lock makes it feel like the inside of the locker is really yours.”

“Honestly, easy.”, “But never did we know the actual harsh truth - that reality was much more difficult.” Explained Cai after being asked about how she thought the locker situation would be.

Personally, I thought about the lockers, but not about opening them. I looked for decorations online, and I also was excited. I was definitely not thinking about how to open it, since I have never opened locks other than with a key.

Some people think that lockers can be important socially, and so does Cai.“I do think that lockers are important socially. I think this because you don’t usually see most of your friends during class periods, and being able to catch up next to your or your friend’s locker between classes is always nice”

Some kids give their locker code to friends, even though it is against school policy. Many kids feel like they want to give their code to their friends just in case they need something, or they want to leave a gift/note in that locker. Others believe that it is your code for a reason, and somehow someone else might find out and begin to steal/leave things in a locker.

Leyton expressed, “I think that it is ok, but you should really trust the person. Again, as I said before, we never really thought about someone taking our stuff in lower school. I don’t really think of it either, so that’s why some of my friends know my locker code…” and  “... people keep it really secret because they feel like it’s their code to their personal space.”

Some kids return to their lockers between classes to get supplies for their next class, and some of them think that it takes too long. Leyton believes, “I don’t [return to my locker between classes], I think it takes longer than a cubby and then you have to open your locker which is a whole process so it takes a lot of time. If we have a longer transition time for snack, then I would go to my locker and put down the old materials.”

Leyton also spoke about her feelings about staying (or not) with the cubbies like in lower school. She said that having a locker makes you feel like a middle schooler, because of the change from cubbies to lockers. She also thought that the change was good because of privacy, and responsibility of being able to open her locker and memorize the code.

Knowing that there are so many struggles with lockers, it might lead you to think that there should be more explicit instruction on how to use them. Yet, there are many benefits to learning on your own. Leyton said, “I don’t [feel like there should be more instructions on how to open your locker], I feel like it is something more independent. It helps you be more independent, and it is a great way to start off middle school, trying to open your locker. I feel like it was a puzzle, and they gave you a few pieces but you had to figure out the rest on your own.”

I think that she is right. It also helps you be more independent if they don’t give you all the instructions, and being independent is a large part of middle school.

I also asked Cai if she still had difficulties opening her locker in 7th grade. She replied that “Not really. Sometimes it takes 2-3 tries, but I think that once you get the hang of it it’s really just muscle memory.” And that is what it really is: remembering how and where to turn the lock, and remembering the numbers to turn it to.

Is your locker an important part of your middle school experience? Cai responded that it is. “I feel like having a locker is one of those milestones in your academic life. You do also see them everywhere when it comes to middle school and the media, and I feel like many people expect a locker when it comes to middle school and being able to call it your own.”

Lockers are a lot like middle school. It’s tough to crack and to remember, but when you do, it’s one of the best feelings that you have all year!