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Opinion, Teaching

Lunch and Learn

Professional conversations over soup

Last Friday I brought soup to school, set up my crockpot in a small office off a colleague’s classroom, made sure that the ladle, napkins, a fresh baguette, and a bright Provencal table cloth were within easy reach, then hurried off to my classroom to teach. Three classes later the bell rang for lunch and I joined my students in an exodus into the hall. I jumped over a tangle of legs from grade 9s who always congregate in the narrowest part of the hallway to dine on sandwiches and leftovers. I zigzagged around a colleague having a stern talk with a student who I assumed had just been caught throwing a basketball in the cafeteria. Then, just as the East wing came into view my principal appeared out of nowhere with a solution he’d thought of to a timetabling nightmare we’ve been wrestling; I kept walking, nodding at him in relief at his ideas. But I had things to do. I had to set up the table cloth, put out the bowls, and arrange my colleague’s classroom into an oasis of calm and conversation. It was time for our third Lunch and Learn.

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Photo by: mharvey75 http://www.flickr.com/photos/mharvey75/374461497/

Last month I felt despairing about my work climate. BC teachers are in the midst of an ugly job action situation. The conversation in the staffroom often tends toward depressing and stressful themes around withdrawing extra-curricular activities, the public’s perception, radio talk show callers, and our rights as workers.  I was relaying the effects of this mood to Lynne Tomlinson and she asked what I wanted to do about it. The solution? Create a place for conversation about the one thing that gets every teacher I know excited and engaged: learning.

The next day I invited my colleagues to join me over soup at lunch hour to discuss just that and I asked them to RSVP with the word YES if they wanted to come. I felt nervous: would they all smirk at my eagerness? But then the most amazing thing happened; there is something profound about seeing the word YES as the subject line to about a dozen emails in an inbox.

I felt relieved and heartened. So far there have been 3 Lunch and Learns. I started the first one with no agenda, an open mic sort of approach. As a group we decided that we’d like to ground our future conversations with an article or some research. So far the articles and discussion have leaned toward the importance of self-regulation and caring for motivation, engagement, and learning. For this week’s conversation the group wants me to bring in something around the idea of building resilience in our learners.

Last Friday’s Lunch and Learn ended with some laughter and a sense of renewal. I looked around me as we re-arranged the chairs and tables and folded the table cloth; I was struck with a sense of hope and anticipation for what is next.