My students are currently working on a multi-cultural project, and one of the essays that they’re reading has to do with segregation at the school lunch table. Not just segregation between races, but between all of those ubiquitous clique- clichés: the jocks, the metal heads, the nerds (The Breakfast Club lives on) etc.
I thought back to my own high school experience, wondering if I would still choose to sit at the same “table” today. But the interesting thing about my high school (which was a home-school setting for grades 9-10, a private school setting for grades 11-12) table was that, ironically, there wasn’t much of a choice. It was either me, my mom and two brothers conversing about our day before facing the dreaded Becca Math books in the afternoon or, later, it was me and my eighteen (yes, that was our entire class of ’99) fellow classmates sandwiched in at the only class table in the cafeteria.
Despite the laughable Saved By The Bell setting of my high school, I like the fact that it forced me to interact with people who I wouldn’t necessarily have hung out with if given a choice. If it would have been up to me, I would have surrounded myself with the type of kids that I gravitated towards during my last stint at public school, mostly artists and would-be 90’s hippies who listened to Nirvana and wore lots of tie-dye and sunflower babydoll dresses. But they were nowhere to be found, and my private school cafeteria table forced me to hang with the sporty kids, the goof-offs, the uber-conservative, straight-A kids. I think the experience contributed to what makes me a good teacher. I’d like to think that I’m able to see past the stereotypes that are so persuasive in life and truly appreciate the individual for who he/she is. It was good to be thrust from that comfort zone early in life; it made the road ahead a bit less bumpy.
So…what table were you at? If given the choice, would you still sit there today?