ONE TEACHER’S ALPHABET
P is for Potluck
I sometimes like to think of my classroom as being an enormous pot on a stove – indeed, a pot of infinite dimensions, big enough to hold all the “food” the scholars and I wish to toss in. This goes back to the idea of roominess – a concept I feel is very important in the teaching and learning process. In their sometimes frenzied lives, teenagers often feel more confinement than spaciousness, and it’s one of my goals to allow my scholars some “room” in my class to feel safe and brave. They need to know there’s space enough in my classroom for every emotion and idea, no matter how seemingly slight or bizarre or even abhorrent. On a given school day, the kids come to my classroom in a wide variety of moods – angry, ambitious, pensive, sorrowful, inspired, confident, unsure, ebullient – and there’s room for all of it in the simmering “pot” of English class. I want the “pot” of my class to be so big that it sort of comfortably cradles each thought and feeling of the scholars.* As the class proceeds, the pot quietly seethes and bubbles, blending the contributions of the scholars into an agreeable stew of one sort or another. Even the anger or diffidence or sorrow that was perhaps tossed in somehow gets amalgamated with the poise and self-assurance of other kids and gradually becomes part of the single “soup” that is English class for that day. The important point is the pot never overflows. Because it’s immeasurable in size, it never gets too full, and so no one’s ideas or feelings are rejected. In this sense, English class in Room 2 is a daily potluck meal, meaning a meal at which each scholar brings “food” that is then shared by all. Like a true potluck feast, the scholars and I enjoy whatever food happens to be available on a given day, and, quite miraculously, it always seems somehow tasty and satisfying.
* For this metaphor, I’m indebted to Jon Kabat-Zinn, in Wherever You Go, There You Are.