cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Seating charts for equity

I can't imagine traveling to new lands and not wanting to try their cuisine. But there really are people who bring their own food with them. One of the best things about traveling in my opinion is being educated  in the sense of the Latin root word — being led out of my own ignorance.

The same is true for me about attending a large, great school. It always has been. From the moment I arrive in a great new school, I feel excited and open to meeting and learning with all different kinds of people from different cultures and backgrounds. I want to expand my own limited world view.

But it seems inevitable that, without outside intervention, I often end up knowing and hanging out with the other Buddhists and Jews in any room. Cultural affinity is a force that possesses a tractor beam all its own. Fortunately, I am not the first to have noticed noticed this.

Our amazing counseling department and our Peer Resources program noticed this phenomenon too, and when they did their most recent student survey of our very large, urban, diverse student body, they put in some questions about this in their student well-being section. And the results were very moving to me.

Students overwhelmingly reported that when they first arrived at our school, they felt enormous pressure to connect with their cultural affinity groups. And for this reason, they reported, they deeply appreciate seating charts in classes that take this pressure away. This practice overwhelmingly helped them to feel that they fit in here and that those who are different from them in some ways are more like them in other ways than they are inclined to believe. It also created a zone of psychological and emotional safety to explore social connections with others not as "Others" but as fellow explorers in a safe space.

These findings touched my heart. Our kids' deeper wisdom never fail to blow me away.

So I sit here on the Sunday before the first day of Spring term making up seating charts, making sure that everybody arrives in my classes in the same boat as everybody else, and with the same opportunity to experience connection with others in as safe a space as I can create.

I will also pre-make Seating Charts #2, #3, and #4 so that it's convenient for me to change the seating without having to think. Sometimes "don't think" is the best rule.

I don't have any scintillating conclusions to draw here. I just wanted to document for myself what I am doing and why so that when I forget, I can more easily remember.


  1. I love for randomly changing seating charts every day!

    1. Hi Lisa — OMG, you are a braver woman than I am! ;) I like to keep groups for a few weeks to give them a chance to gel and cross-pollinate. I also have a good number of specific seating requirements (via IEPs and 504s) that I have to accommodate. How do you accommodate those via
      Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth