People need refuge on occasion. I am an introvert at heart and can spend hours just in quiet or with my music. I know my facade is as an extrovert but that is what I do to teach and be in the world. I have always been uncomfortable in group settings and get very anxious when more than two people are around. In social settings, I am even worse. The most challenging thing I do every year is the staff holiday party. I usually sit off to the side and if my wife is not with me I sweat and pray that nobody comes over to talk to me. That leads me to the role of the clubhouse. We teach 5 classes over seven periods. That means that for 2 class periods, my room is open. I always have made the room available for them and during our lunch hour for students that need refuge. My room sometimes feels like a clubhouse but it is perfect for students that need a break. Over the years libraries were often a refuge but since they are “media centers” and must be used for everything else but actually sitting down in quiet and reading a book. We are very lucky now with a media specialist that has students in mind. The library has once again become a place of activity and is filled with students. It is exciting to see the room filled again with students.
The Tech Office was also a clubhouse for many years when I had the job. We would hold CyberPatriot practices and competitions in the office as well as being a place of solitude for kids. With all of the pressure to make classes exciting and always interactive, we have lost some kids. Sometimes I think the pendulum has swung so far to the active part we lost the kids who like solitude. In our history of schooling, we catered to the quiet and it was hard for the active kids. Maybe we just need a happy balance. The best example of a student that needed a different setting happened a few years ago. He was very active but didn’t like sitting and talking to people so a different setting might be in order. I was talking to an assistant principal in the commons one day and this student kept passing us as he made laps around the room. As he passed for the fifth time the assistant principal nodded toward the kid and asked me, “One of yours?” I just nodded because he was one of my interns and in my clubs. I offered often for him to come to my room but he just liked doing laps in the commons.
My advice to schools is to have both options for students. An assortment of loud options and quiet options for kids is important. As a kid, my refuge was the library and one of my fondest memories of junior high school was being in Mrs. Paluka’s library. Yes, that really is her name. I have never forgotten the hours I spent there reading everything from the Hardy Boys to Robert Heinlein.