“I sat in a stool yesterday!”
“I’ve been in a stool for a week!”
“Did you change the chart? I was in this chair yesterday.”
This is how literacy began today. Students were so angry about their seating plan. Their anger made me angry at first. After all, I had finally made the new special seat chart because we all felt that it would be more fair than leaving it up to chance and fate. Up until recently, we had an honor system of sitting somewhere you hadn’t sat recently. That “system” didn’t work, and we all decided that we needed something more formal.
Yesterday I asked them if they wanted me to order the chart differently so they didn’t have a stool for several days in a row as we moved our class numbers through the chart, and they said no. But today, today they were unhappy.
All of these recent events and decisions swirled in my mind, as did the literacy plans I had ready to go… and I started my conversation more sharply than necessary. I was annoyed to take this time.
“Tell me what else I can do?” I said with an edge to my voice. And I repeated all that I had done thus far to help them with the fairness of the chart.
Then a hand went up with a suggestion. A good suggestion. I felt my attitude shift. I took a mindful deep breath – and I listened. I listened and we tried the idea. Then another student added an idea, and we tried that. We cut the chart apart, and moved it around the board. More students got involved in the conversation, and the magnet moving. The class nodded in agreement with our work. We had a chart to work with that honestly was better than before.
“We’ve lost all the spots people were in before,” I started, “and if I put these magnets up I’m afraid people will be upset that they have a stool again, or the same chair again. The only way to do this is to randomly place them.”
“We won’t say anything. Just put them up and that’s where we’ll sit.”
“We won’t complain!”
It was startling how our attitudes had shifted. Student complaints fed my annoyance – and when a student was willing to engage in the real task at hand, I was able to break away from my annoyance, and take the edge out of my voice. We found our new chairs, and got down to the business of reading.