As we planned for Mix It Up at Lunch Day last year, I felt a deep sense of nervousness. I wasn’t worried about getting the kids to talk and chat. I teach at a small school, and the students are usually friendly with one another.
I wasn’t even worried about crowd control. Several other teachers had agreed to come and be a part of the event.
No, I’m embarrassed to say that what I worried most about was the cafeteria staff.
I walk through the cafeteria now and again, but it’s definitely the domain of the instructional assistants who supervise the lunch shifts. They set the rules and the tone. I know that I wouldn’t like it if someone walked into my classroom and told me that I needed to rearrange things, even for the best of reasons. I wondered, how would the instructional assistants take Mix It Up at Lunch?
I decided that e-mail wasn’t the right way to start the conversation. Instead, I stopped in to talk with one of the assistants. Before I even finished my second sentence, she said, “Oh, I’ve heard of it. They do it at my son’s school.”
As it turned out, her son’s middle school holds Mix It Up days several times throughout the school year. Instead of having to explain why this was a good idea, I found myself listening to her talk about how it was such a good idea. We went on to find out that we had many things in common, like sons in middle school and a love of fantasy books, before we started talking about the practicalities of the day and how it would work in the cafeteria.
She later talked with the other staff about how Mix It Up is such a great event. On the day of Mix It Up at Lunch, everyone in the cafeteria was excited and invested in making it a success.
One of the greatest aspects of Mix It Up at Lunch Day is how it can have a positive impact across the school staff. I started out to mix up the students, but I also found out more about the people I work with each day. Instead of feeling as if I were intruding in the cafeteria, I felt welcomed. Our conversations continued even after Mix It Up at Lunch Day ended—which, I guess, is entirely the point.
Kissner is a fourth-grade teacher in Pennsylvania.