I just found out I will be teaching Seminar in Composition in one of the Nationality Rooms at Pitt. The Swedish Room in fact. At least it's on the first floor...
Now, each of these rooms is flipping gorgeous. I learn a lot each time I go in them, they smell nice generally, and they make me proud to be a Pittsburgher. But you can't move the chairs, you can't have liquids or food in the room, there isn't technology like computer screens for the teachers, and the seats are generally rigid wood or stone that gets incredibly uncomfortable. And the worst part? When people take Nationality Room tours, instead of looking through the peep hole to see whether class is in progress, they'll just swing the door open and barge on in. Then they'll look around, stunned, at the class trying to learn (as if we were an apparition zoomed straight from the fjords of Sweden itself) and say, "Sorry! Whoops!"
This will happen again and again, completely interrupting learning. I've taught summer sessions with young writers in these rooms. I think they are a fabulous resource for the school, but really not good learning environments.
My biggest concern is with not putting the chairs in a circle. My whole pedagogy is based around the chairs in circle. Now, they'll be a back and a front, a place to hide and do Sodoku, a way to slouch down and not join the conversation. I'll be forced to stimulate young, tired minds!! Without a circle!
It's almost too much to bear. I'm thinking of pretending to be one of them--sitting among them and waiting and waiting for the "teacher" to show up, finally standing to say, "well, I guess she's not coming. Let's get out of here."