Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm about to rearrange the cosmos, and the one *schlemiel* who can louse it up is waltzing around in the woods.

"I'll begin, 'I remember it just like it was yesterday. I was teaching a night class at the time, and one evening when I walked in I saw that someone had written in bold letters on a chalkboard at the side of the room: 'Put the chairs back in rows!'" --Derrick Jensen, Walking on Water

This is one of the laugh-out-loud stories that Derrick Jensen (a writing teacher) shares in his book. The story goes that his class puts the chairs in a circle for class time, and he gets into a chalkboard war with a professor who wants the chairs in rows. Jensen wins, just in case you are wondering.

I was reminded of this story this morning, and this is what happened.

Yesterday was the first day of school. Sunday night I was not at all excited, but on Monday morning, I was much more excited. I went into my classroom and was slightly surprised to see that the tables and chairs had been arranged into what are sometimes called pods. Two tables pushed together with chairs around them. There were about 8 of these little groups all around the classroom.

I, personally, am a fan of the circle. It allows my students to see each other, which is helpful to participation, it allows them to interact with each other, rather than just me, and I can sit with them which helps me to see the cell phones they attempt to hide under the table. But I decided that for the first day, this arrangement would be ok. They were not in strict rows only facing the front, so there was more interaction already.

During the second class that I had yesterday, in the same classroom, I still left the tables in pods. When the students came in, I was pleased to see that I have several students from last semester (fortunately they have moved up to the next level). As we were chatting, one of the students commented that the arrangement was different.

I responded, "Yeah, I'm not sure I'm digging it. What do you think?"

Most of them agreed that they liked the circle better.

When I arrived at work this morning, I had received an email, stating that I had clearly rearranged the furniture in AS 204, and would I please refrain from doing so in the future. Now, this email came from the facilities coordinator who works with all the maintenance and janitorial staff, and (like Derrick Jensen) I am inclined to respect that request because perhaps it is easier to vacuum if the tables are in rows. However, I was unjustly accused!

I responded: "Actually, I didn't rearrange the tables. They were arranged that way when I entered the classroom." And then to be extra polite, I asked, "How should they be arranged?"

And then I got a phone call (this always surprises me because my phone never rings). The facilities coordinator himself was calling to tell me how the tables should be arranged. In rows of course. Facing the front. "And do I understand this correctly? You didn't rearrange the tables?"

Dude, if I had rearranged, it would have been in a circle.

He's still working to solve the mystery of who rearranged the tables.

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