Thursday, December 17, 2009

High versus Low Context

Today there was a two-hour meeting to go over every single detail of the upcoming Christmas party at school. Each teacher was handed a six-sheet packet of spreadsheets listing everybody's duties. Earlier in the day, I'd asked to be sent a summary of the meeting so that I could contribute. I was told, however, that it would be easier just to send me the entire list. Summarizing the meeting into a couple sentences would be too hard. And so at the meeting, Ted and I sat there for an hour while the vice principal discussed everybody's duties. I looked around the crowded room, expecting to catch somebody's eyes, but everybody was looking at their paper. Even when something didn't pertain to them, they followed right along. Everybody corrected minor errors. For example, one of my classes was listed as being taught by somebody else—no big deal, but everybody crossed out the other teacher's name and wrote in mine. Hell, I didn't even do that. We even discussed duties of people who weren't at the meeting, and the teachers took notes. The headers of the spreadsheets were named and discussed. Who would take out the trash and when, who to go to for every problem and when, why and when and of what to take pictures, what the theme of each floor would be and why, when and why to clean up the floor—these were things that had to be explained away. Everybody looked so serious, as though they would miss something if they didn't know why the temperature of the sitting-out food had to be checked every so often, even if they would be in charge of games and nowhere near the food.

After an hour, with still an hour to go, Preston, who hadn't realized we'd been pulled into the meeting, yanked Ted and me out. "Do you have any questions?"


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