The directions from the conference presenter were simple, “Stand up from your chair. Go to another table next to you, one with people you don’t know, and say ‘Hi’ to them as if they are your long lost best friend from childhood.” The energy in the room skyrocketed as everyone said exuberant hellos, high-fived, and gave hugs. The presenter then asked us to return to our seats and reflect on the feeling. Most people felt positive and happy from this small activity. However, a table at the front had been asked to remain seated during the activity. Other people could have approached and greeted these people, but not a single person did. The group of people at the front felt left out and uneasy. The speaker, Mawi Asgedom, used this activity to remind us of what happens in our schools.
Three minutes left until the end of class. You’ve taught a great lesson, cleaned up your materials, and assigned the homework. You look at the clock and realize that you have three minutes left—not enough time to jump into a new topic, but too long to ask students to just sit quietly. What can you do to use this time well and ensure your classroom doesn’t descend into chaos?
In teaching, as in the rest of life, there are best practices. And then there is real life. We all know that we should eat fruits and vegetables for an after school snack when we have low energy from teaching all day. Yet, that candy bar looks so much more appealing than that apple at four in the afternoon.
New teachers are often given the advice, “Avoid the teachers’ lounge.” The rationale behind this advice is that it can be a place filled with complaints and negativity. I followed this advice for many years, eating lunch alone in my classroom. I really didn’t mind this situation because I had other times in the day to connect with adults. However, things changed when I had my baby. There were no longer any spare moments at school to chat with colleagues and my evenings were filled with taking care of the baby and then collapsing out of exhaustion. In an effort to get some conversation with adults during the day, I started to eat lunch in the teachers’ lounge with my colleagues.