“Sure,” I gulped, “It’s kind of cluttered.” “Kind of cluttered” is a gross understatement. I am a packrat’s packrat: every piece of mail; every unclaimed project; thousands of photographs; and scores of outdated textbooks have all found permanent storage in my classroom. Soppy and sentimental, I have also kept every thank-you note and drawing given to me in my 23-year career. I tried to think of a way to seat everyone so that they could not see the piles of stuff. Since that was not possible, I decided to woo them away from evaluating my mess by wowing them with tea.
The Site Council is a group of students, parents, support staff, teachers, and administrators. Each member has equal say in matters ranging from school improvement plans (aka raising standardized test scores) to grant applications to new course proposals. It is both an awesome responsibility and an awesome opportunity.
The meeting taking place in my room was one of the most important ones of the year: hearing and evaluating new course proposals. Will the new course benefit kids? Will new staff be required? How much will it cost? Do we have space? Will kids want to take it?
Five new courses were proposed this year. Each one was remarkable in its own way – from Spanish Language Geometry to Advanced Placement Photography – every proposal was good for kids. But I digress.
My ace in the hole was a student who is crazy about tea. He likes jasmine. He loves Oolong. He has developed a taste for Margaret’s Hope Muscatel. His arrival was punctuated by a clever flip of his beret and a request, “Hey, Rafe, is it too late for tea?” I love this kid. He’s telepathic!
“It’s never too late for tea! What would you like? Black? Oolong? Jasmine?” As I answered, I gave a welcoming glance to the parents and staff members who had already arrived.
The student answered “Black!” in unison with two folks who said “Jasmine”. So, I brewed a cup of black for the student, and a pot of jasmine for the rest. Everyone was enamored of the zojirushi and the tetsubin. “This is not your typical tea bag stuff,” one parent commented, “this is really good.” They watched in awe as I steeped the jasmine three times. Cup after cup was consumed until I ran out of hot water. Two members were bowing in praise as I filled their cups again.
“We’re going to have to have every meeting in here!” my principal exclamed as he drank his third cup of jasmine. “This tea is fabulous. Where do you get tea like this?” I gave him T Ching’s website address.
Instead of the usual “Wow, you have a lot of stuff!” People commented on the tea. The meeting was lively and collegial. Every member contributed to the discussion of course proposals, and everyone listened carefully to the comments of others.
Mission accomplished, eh?