Today I attended a teacher workshop – day three of the five introductory days to a year-long exploration of American Art in the humanities classroom. The topic is fascinating, the scholarship formidable, and the cohort small. Twenty four of us.
They are doing a fair share of modeling instruction techniques, and we start each day with a sharing of the previous day’s reflection with the others at the table.
When I taught high school, it was an interesting phenomenon that students assign themselves seats pretty quickly. That had happened in this room as well, and I wanted to talk with some different teachers. When I go to a conference, I always force myself to meet new people, to start a conversation with someone new. So when I arrived super-early to dodge the Blackhawks parade today, I sat at an empty table, though not the table that I was at yesterday. I had my materials out and was sitting with my coffee.
A woman who had been at that table yesterday approached.
“You sitting at a different table today?” she asked.
“Yeah, I thought I’d get a change of perspective. Will that drive people crazy, do you think?”
“Yes it will.”
Wow. The look in her eye was not one of laughter.
I stood up and said something about my students and their tendency to sit in the same spots, picked up my things, and moved back to the table I was at yesterday. She sat down; she did not ask me to stay.
My interaction with the entire day was changed. I did not raise my hand. I did not volunteer. I spent some time thinking about the lunchroom at school and the power dynamic that gets played out every day. I was angry at myself for not staying put, but I reconciled my decision by assuring myself that conversations would not be fruitful at a table that did not welcome me. I am struck by how it changed me, and I want to understand how I can help my students who find themselves in the same situation.
Reading this back over, I seem like a total wimp. I guess I am, but I was not ready to fight that one today.
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Not every fight is worth fighting.
I completely respect your wish to sit in new places each day. The first year I participated in a writing project summer institute, I did the same thing. I came in the second morning and sat somewhere new. (This was a four week thing and I think that may actually have helped.) As others came in I laughingly mentioned my need to sit in different places. Some folks seemed uncomfortable but others remarked that it sounded like a great idea and consciously found new seats. It was fascinating to watch. But I got to know everyone!
I will probably get to know everyone over the year, but since I have become a relatively functioning adult, this has not happened to me.
Twenty twenty hindsight has a thousand different things I could have said. But you are right: not every fight is worth fighting.
I’m glad that I got to know you!
Yoga class is like that, too. I like to move around, am always afraid I’m sitting in someone’s seat. And I give in, too, like you. I attended a series of classes by Landmark Education – one of the requirements was that every time the group returned to the room, from a break or whatever, you had to sit in a different seat, next to a different person – yay! Permission to move 🙂
You are right about yoga class! There are people who get to class super early so they always get their preferred spot on the wall.
I love the idea of having to find a new seat after every break or event. I love permission to move. I am actually astonishingly shy and I had to get up courage to move in the first place. This would make it so much easier.
Sometimes, when I find myself doing the *easy* thing, I make myself do the harder thing. I mean, when there is no good reason to do the easy thing except that I am timid and afraid.