The Art Of Gathering

Photo of author

By Mary Clements

Recently I was introduced to Priya Parker, author of the book “The Art of Gathering, How We Meet And Why It Matters”. She is also the host of a New York Times Podcast called Together Apart which features stories about how people are reimagining virtual gathers that happen as our lives continue in isolation from birthdays, births, graduations, meetings, funerals and endless zoom calls. Very topical!

Something she pointed out that resonated with me is that the single biggest mistake we make when trying to gather — whether physically or virtually — is assuming we already know its purpose. She provided the example of her mother-in-law who is a ceramics teacher at an all girls schools who had to adapt to online.

Usually in her ceramics class she would be able to squeeze hands to show the right amount of pressure and physically demonstrate to all the students how to mold their art. Without any of her regular tools she was forced to explore 3 important questions:

  • Why do I teach this course?
  • How do I want my students to be different because of this experience?
  • What is the purpose of my class?

From these questions, she realized she wanted her students to be confident problem-solvers, to be risk-takers, and to be able to create something from nothing. Ceramics was the medium but not the actual purposeShe also wanted her students to be confident, to keep using their hands and to reduce their amount of screen time. She wanted the outcome to be 3-D and to be craftable from materials already in their homes.

With these intentions in mind, ceramics turned into papermâché class as she invented new projects that met all of her goals above. She also promised students that when school reopened their work would be honoured by being displayed.

I really loved this example because it illustrated the power of flexibility, creativity with the tools available and the willingness to explore change.

It reminded me of our own programs here at Les Petites Pommes because while our activities look very different from March and have changed from in-person summer camps, after school tutoring classes etc, the core purpose has remained the same: Creating spaces that help children feel confident in themselves while working towards French mastery. I feel that with our purpose, the possibilities are endless and it is with this spirit we will keep reinventing and willingly exploring change  for our students.

Lastly, Parker has also organized some questions to help people get clear on their gathering’s purpose that I thought were summed up quite nicely:

Here are some questions to help you get clear on your gathering’s purpose:

  • What is the desired outcome?
  • Who is this gathering for (primarily)?
  • If all goes well, how might the guests be different because of this gathering?
  • How do you want people to feel when they walk away?
  • If your virtual gathering is replacing an in-person one, has the purpose changed? Is it the same as we originally intended, or has the need changed?
  • What is the role of the host, and what is the role of guests?

Thanks to our awesome teacher Ona for introducing me to this, I just had to share with all of you 🙂 We can do it!

In this week’s book we go on a safari and count all sorts of neat animals! Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any French stories!