31 March 2016

This Hotel Lobby Wants Something From You

I love the idea of this table.

This is the table right next to the breakfast area at the suites my family stayed at over spring break. What does this table tell you?

With the choice of this long, narrow table, someone wanted to say, "You should sit here with people and TALK to them." This is out of the ordinary for most hotel lobbies, right? Tables are normal, yes, but typically they are square and fit 2-4 people. You go down to partake of the continental breakfast and guests sit spread out, usually keeping to themselves. I'll be honest - I didn't observe any difference in breakfast behavior patterns during my stay at the Home2 Suites, but I still had a different expectation when I walked into the lobby. If nothing else, it was an invitation or permission to interact in ways I would not normally feel a freedom to.

Like the buddy bench at some playgrounds, someone sitting at this table signals to others that they are open to "playing together."

What does this have to do with classrooms and learning??

Most teachers are more than comfortable with being mindful of ISOLATING students when it's assessment time, and any disciple of Wong's The First Days of School will ensure that students are able to move around the room without bottlenecking in spots, but we must also be mindful of how we will use seating to bring students together.

Not everyone is going to choose to work in a group (and that choice is SUPER important for introverts), but for those that do, is there a space on your room to make this not suck? I have many memories of smushing the slant-topped L-shaped desks together in high school, and it's a reality of room sharing and available space in a couple of my own classrooms right now, but NOTHING about that scenario screams "facilitating collaboration," right?

Whenever administrators or colleagues make note of the kids talking to each other at tables instead of silently staring at me during a lecture, I have to always push back and remind myself even that those tables are a choice I made to allow students to interact. In a perfect world, we would have flexible seating that easily combines, recombines, and separates to whatever setup I want, but if I must choose, I'll choose to connect, rather than isolate.

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Thanks for sharing!