How We Gather Is How We Live

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By Mary Clements

For those of you who have been reading this newsletter for many years, you know that I am obsessed with connection and connecting across differences. I am constantly looking for tools that we can apply to our Les Petites Pommes classrooms to create memorable and meaningful learning experiences for our students. Not only are these connection tools crucial for classrooms, they are wonderful for life!

This year my husband Charles and I (pictured to the right) are hosting gatherings at our house over the holidays for the first time, including Christmas dinner. Family members were asking me if this is going to be stressful and luckily I already had a tool in mind waiting for just this occasion! I went to my bookshelf and pulled out: “The Art of Gathering, How We Meet And Why It Matters” By Priya Parker. 

So upon hearing that we were stepping up to hosting duties, I quickly revisited this book (which was initially used as research for improving our virtual class spaces!) to remind me of some of her excellent tips and I thought they would be useful to share with all of you as we enter into holiday season!

1) Embrace a purpose: Instead of thinking about having all the right things and right food in place, we can ask the question, what does the family need this year? Has there been a recent loss and maybe some new traditions are needed to remind you of these special people? Maybe community and contribution are needed to support one an other and this can be created by everyone bringing a dish instead of one person/family doing all the cooking duties. Or maybe a family is needing harmony after some disagreements. Parker says too often the focus is placed on the food, decor, state of the house etc. while the interactions between guests are left to chance. Think of the purpose and build out from there.

2) Don’t be a chill host: Before I read this book, I was definitely in the category of “chill host” thinking it was favourable to just leave everyone alone. After finishing this book, I see it very differently now! Parker says to assume your power as the host because if you do not, someone else will fill inevitable this void. She says to use our generous authority to protect, connect, equalize and include guests rather than defaulting to the loudest person. (This chapter also translates well to not being a “chill teacher!”) She asks, who wants to sail on skipperless ship?

3) Cause good controversy: “Good controversy can lead to something better then the status-quo”, says Parker. In this chapter she talks about cultivating “good heat” as a way of creating memorable connection. For example, for talking together around the holiday table, if the family is needing to restore harmony this year, you can try for the night, banning all opinions and asking for first-hand stories instead. She gives lots of examples in the book but I particularly liked this one because it gives everyone a way of being with each other without burning the house down.

4) Use rules to create a temporary world: Rules can be used to create a unique feeling and make guests feel comfortable, secure, and included. You can design your gathering with special rules that only exist once like the rule above that no one can tell opinions just first-hand stories. Maybe your gathering is short and you want everyone to be present so having everyone turn their phones to airplane mode for a period of time would be important. These can be as creative or simple as you, the host decide!

I’ll let you know how it goes after the holidays and if we are voted out of hosting duties or if the new ideas are successful 🙂 Whatever you are celebrating this month, I hope all your gathering allow you to be seen authentically and are meaningful and special!