I was about to start an assembly program in a school in Louisiana. A shall remain nameless school. I was going to perform in the cafeteria, as I have a thousand times. However, when I arrived, all the tables were set up. I asked if we could move them, because if you have any idea of what I do when I perform for kids, you know that having them sitting sideways at cafeteria tables makes it pretty much impossible to do a good show. The art teacher and I began to slide them out of the way, carving out space for 200 kids.
The assistant principal came in and said to me in an obviously unhappy voice, “So, you’ve moved the tables? We didn’t know about this.”
I replied, “Yes, it’s important for what I do. But I’ll be glad to help move them back when we’re done. Or maybe three or four kids could help me for a few minutes. It won’t be a big deal.”
“No,” he said. “They’re already losing an hour of instructional time to this assembly. They can’t afford to lose more. Besides, there’s testing next week.”
I contained my sense of outrage, being the nice Midwesterner I was raised to be. I said nothing and proceeded to do a great show, with kids and grownups deeply engaged as we sang about reading, getting along, and the power of story.
But being the occasionally passive aggressive Midwesterner I was also raised to be, I recruited a few kids at the end of the show anyway. The assistant principal wasn’t there. The kids were delighted to help, and the problem solving and cooperation they showed as they returned the tables to their original position was probably the educational highlight of their day.
Although they did lose ten minutes of instructional time. And God knows, table moving isn’t on the test.