Where did my students go?

Mike Grist Life Leave a Comment

In afternoon class yesterday I gave a break halfway through – it’s a 3-hour class so a 15-minute break (plus the promise of letting them go early if they work hard) is fair – but after 15 minutes the students didn’t come back.

What? Well, 3 did. I sat and waited a little, but still nothing. It’s not unusual for a handful of students to be late back from break, but most of the class – 9 more students? Where did they go?

5 minutes go by. I happen to check my school email – and see an email from my students, who are stuck in the elevator! A selfie photo is attached – they are smiling, except for the one who is claustrophobic.

I go over to the elevator. This is on the 6th floor. Building staff are already there. Apparently the elevator car is just below the surface of the floor, and they hope to get it moving again in 10 minutes. I shout through the door to my students – are you OK? They’re OK, but it’s hot.

I go to notify my boss. What’s the protocol in this situation? She accompanies me back and we all stand there outside the closed elevator. We’re waiting for Health and Safety approval to take some kind of action. Is the elevator secure? Yes, apparently – solidly braked. It was too heavy for the counterweight, so just stopped pulling. That’s odd, because the capacity is 16 and only 10 of them in there (my 9 plus one more).

After maybe 30 minutes the staff guy opens the doors. He isn’t supposed to, but they’re complaining it’s too hot inside. The doors open and I see my students wilting, with the elevator positioned maybe 2 feet below the floor. A wave of heat like we’ve just opened a sauna door pours out and keeps coming. They’re all wearing their winter clothes – just come in from outside. The claustrophobic person is freaking out.

Nobody can get off yet though. It’s a health and safety issue about the step up to the floor, at this stage. The elevator is isolated and not moving. There are phone calls back and forth, an older building maintenance guy comes and consider the situation.

I talk to my students. “So, at least you’ve got your phones, you’ve got the Internet right?”


“Well, I’ve emailed you the case study, so if you want to bring that up and start discussing it in pairs…”

Everybody groans.

No. Of course we are going to let them go now.

The new guy makes the call. After being trapped for 4o minutes, they are allowed to step up out of the elevator. The claustrophobic person dances around fanning themself. The rest hurry away.

Just another day in the teaching mines.

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