Starbucks and School…Through the Lens of an Educator

Starbucks has coffee.  Starbucks has tea.  Starbucks has a wide variety of drinks.  Starbucks has servers who greet you warmly.  Starbucks has conversation.  Starbucks has music.  Starbucks has people.  And today, Starbucks has me.  I am sitting here working in this environment which is supposed to mimic the busy school environment to which I am gradually returning in September.

For those who may not know, I began a gradual return to work this past February.  In December 2017, I had a fall, at work, and sustained a pretty good concussion that has taken me out of commission for almost two years.  During the month of August I am continuing with the same gradual return to work schedule that was in place for me at the end of the school year. Retaining that same schedule will ensure that my brain and body are ready for the busy-ness of September in an elementary school of about 400 students and 56 staff members.

As I was thinking about a blog topic today, I began to wonder if Starbucks could truly challenge my brain and mimic a busy school environment.  As I settled in with my cup of tea, I opened my laptop to begin to write and my 10:00AM appointment showed up.  Yes, I was having a “coffee” date with a friend and she was right on time.  Just like at work, I am keeping to my schedule of appointments, and it never fails that just when you think you have a few moments to start something, your 10:00AM arrives right on time!  We chit chat and catch up on our summer holidays.  Some of the distractions I noticed were people walking by, music playing in the background and various conversations happening all around us.  For the most part, I was able to focus on what was being said even though the music and other conversations were quite loud.  Once our date ended, I decided to switch gears and try reading my book.  I was able to read a few chapters, but couldn’t help being distracted by the group behind me who were enthusiastically engaged in conversation.

So is a Starbucks coffee shop an appropriate place to mimic a school-like environment?  What are the particular Starbucks experiences, and how do they relate to the school environment as we know it?

Just as Starbucks has a wide variety of drink sizes such as Venti, Grande, Tall and Short, we teach a variety of students in our schools who come to us in all sizes and abilities.  Unlike Starbucks, though, we don’t get to pick and choose the students we have in our classes.  Each year, we are blessed to have a group of unique individuals who make our classes and schools awesome!  Just as Starbucks has music playing in the background, our schools are filled with the music of children’s voices, music and choir classes as well as the daily games played during recess times.  Unlike Starbucks where music is playing constantly in the background, there are pockets of time when our hallways and classrooms can be very quiet but, I hope, that is not what we strive for in our schools.  The constant buzz of student voices tells us that children are communicating with one another, children are collaborating and problem solving together.  Hopefully children are not simply sitting in desks and rows trying to focus while the teacher does all of the talking!

Starbucks has people coming and going throughout the day and there are natural rhythms that occur.  The constant morning drive-thru rush of people trying to get to work; oftentimes driving solo in their cars, minds wondering about their work day ahead.  We have these natural ebbs and flows in the school environment, too.  The busy-ness of morning drop off and the feeling of anticipation as students wait to greet their teachers.  This before school time for students is a time for reconnecting with friends and making plans for recess later that morning.  This before school time is a time for parents to drop off their kids, giving them their morning hugs and I love you assurances as they, too, get on with their day.  This before school time is the time when our teachers, too, are doing last minute prep, are anticipating and feeling the excitement of greeting and teaching a group of children they may call, my class, my crew, my 2nd graders!

Starbucks has servers who may greet you with a warm hello and smile, and if you are a regular, you may even be greeted by name as you pay for your morning coffee to get you through the congestion of traffic to your place of work.  Unlike Starbucks, we know the power of greeting each child with a smile, a high five, a hug and by learning their names as quickly as we can at the beginning of the school year.  Unlike Starbucks, we don’t simply send people on their way and move on to the next order.  We are lucky to have a group of students with us for six plus hours a day, to learn about their hopes and dreams and to comfort those who may not be lucky enough to start their days on such happy notes.

So, is Starbucks, as a coffee shop, able to mimic the school environment for me as I progress through my gradual return to work plan for August?  I believe, as I have written above, there are comparisons to be made and it is fun to look at Starbucks through the lens of an educator.  Overall, I found today’s session to have the potential. Starbucks is a place that will definitely stress my brain and an appropriate place to be to try to focus and to complete some work tasks.

What is your place to go to complete your writing and work tasks when you are not at work?  Is it a place in your home, your local coffee shop, or public library?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts.  Thanks for reading!

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