Setting Thesaurus Entry: School Office


chairs, couches, carpeted floor, little end tables, parenting/educational magazines, desks for receptionists with all the secretarial paraphernalia (phone, computer, desk calendar, files, stapler, pens, post-it notes, markers), smudged plate-glass window looking into the nearest school hallway, educational posters/pictures on walls, private bathroom, separate room for copier/fax/teacher mailboxes/etc, bulletin board with meeting notices and other announcements, framed diplomas, family pictures, wooden Principal's desk, big cushy rolling chair, secretaries, principal, kids and parents waiting in chairs, tray of half-eaten breakfast goodies, fake plants, aquarium, student artwork, garbage can, recycling bins, calendar, sign in books, visitor passes, school hand outs, lost and found jars for small items (glasses, cel phones, jewelry), jars filled with pens, sick room


phones ringing, papers rustling, click of keyboards, door opening and closing, noise of busy hallways outside, kids outside talking/laughing, running feet in the halls, period bells ringing, fire alarm, secretaries talking on phone/chatting/laughing quietly, flip of magazine pages, parents talking on cell phones in hushed voices, parents/students whispering, students crying, announcements being made over the intercom, file cabinets jerking open/sliding closed, jingle of keys, beep of walkie-talkies, hum of copier, stapler banging, scissors swishing, scratch of pens, muffled voices from behind Principal's closed door, grind of pencil sharpener


warm smell of new copies, sweaty kids, perfume/cologne, markers, coffee, leftover breakfast/snack/lunch smells (oatmeal, bananas, bacon, pizza, hot dogs, etc), hot printer cartridges, musty carpet


rubbery erasers, wood pencils, bubblegum, hard candy, mints, fingernails, tears, breakfast foods from the community tray (doughnuts, bagels, muffins, pastry), coffee, water, tea


glass window pane, embroidered chair, leather couch, hard folding chair, scuff of carpet beneath the feet, anxious body movements (increased pulse, butterflies in stomach, racing heart, fidgety body parts), cold telephone receiver, metal door knobs, scratchy pen when signing in, a sweaty grip,

Helpful hints:

--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood.

Example 1:

I glanced up to check on Billy, who kicked at the leg of his chair as he waited for his turn to see the principal. The ice pack I'd given him for his bruised knee had fallen onto the floor and his glare burned the carpet. The third fight he'd started this week, yet from the way his lip puffed out and his arms squeezed his chest, you'd think he'd been on the victim end of things.

Example 2:

Jennifer sat at the edge of her hard plastic seat, her mouth drier than three-day-old toast. Above her, the steady click of the wall clock kept her company as she waited for the principal to come talk to her. The word had sounded so funny when Ben had whispered it: thong. Why did I repeat it--and so loudly--when I didn't even know what it meant?

--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.

Example 1: (Simile)

I squirmed on the bench as the Principal's door snicked open. His shoes made quick scuffs against the thin carpet and then suddenly he was there, looming over me like an angry wave about to swallow me whole.

Example 2: (Metaphor)

I stomped on the snow mat, dislodging what I could of the snow crusting my boots, then carted Emily's forgotten backpack into the office. At the visitor's desk I attempted to flag down a secretary, but the room was a hive of activity: phones buzzed, late students argued their cases for being tardy and teachers swooped in with coffee cups in hand, gathering their mail on the way to class.


Suzanne Casamento said...

This is great! Just reading this made me feel like I was in the principal's office. : )

Nora MacFarlane said...

Secretaries often double as nurses (nurses travel in our district). Since the clinic is also part of our elementary school office, it's not unusual to walk in to the smell of puke and/or bleach.

Love your blog!

Becca said...

That's true, Nora. Thanks for the reminder!

Sorry about that, Suzanne ;).

Hazardgal said...

A scene I know well is the hive of the office. It was always as crowded as an elevator at closing time. Lights that hum and blink. Bathrooms as nasty as dirty diapers.