6 Chairs 4 People

Most mornings I wake up an hour or two before the rest of my family. I sit by the fire with my laptop and try to craft some type of meaningful piece. But this morning I had a headache. So I just sat by the fire. And instead of checking my Twitter feed or reading someone else’s blog post, I simply sat and took some time to think and truly listen to what was in my head and to really take notice of what I saw. It helped to ease my headache, but more than anything it helped me to see with new eyes. And then I realized something that I never had before.


At my kitchen table there are 6 chairs and yet we have only 4 people who live in my house. My wife and I and our two children. Ninety five percent of the time my house is occupied by the same 4 people. In addition to our 6 kitchen chairs we also have several sofas, computers, bedrooms and bathrooms.

I think the fact that we get to choose where we eat, where we lie down to relax and even what digital device we use is significant on several levels.

First, I am aware of the fact that my children live in a wonderful state of abundance. They get to make choices whenever they are at home. They have multiple places to eat, multiple places to rest and multiple computers to use when they need to choose. And yet, their choices are almost always the same. They usually sit in the same chair to eat, lie on the same sofa to relax and select the same mobile device to entertain themselves.


I believe it is because they have already been afforded the opportunity to make choices and they now know what is right for them. They have been able to try them all out and decide for themselves what they like and what they don’t. And they almost always get to choose what is best for them because they have the luxury of choices.

On the other hand, choices are not something that many of the students that I work with ever have. I am certain that many of my students have fewer chairs at their kitchen table than they have people to sit in them. Many of my students do not have even one place to relax when they go home, let alone multiple. And, worst of all, some of my students have fewer places to sleep than they do people living in their home.

Living in a constant state of deficit has to take its toll on our students. These students have a difficult time making choices at school because they never get to make them at home. Therefore when they are at school they are in a constant state of flux, mentally and physically. These are the kids that are constantly moving. These are the kids that can’t quiet their minds.

And we often wonder, why can’t they just keep still? Why can’t they just relax. Why can’t they just be happy? Well…

School is sometimes the first place where they have ever been able to choose where to sit, given options on how to relax and been afforded the opportunity to use various types of digital devices.

Many of our students have had little to no practice with this at all. And therefore many of our children often fail during their decision-making process.


“Goldilocks was very tired by this time, so she went upstairs to the bedroom.  She lay down in the first bed, but it was too hard.  Then she lay in the second bed, but it was too soft.  Then she lay down in the third bed and it was just right.  Goldilocks fell asleep.”

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

What we fail to realize is that many of our students have missed out on walking themselves through the process of having choices and making decisions and learning which one feels “just right”. They have missed out on failing at home, where it is safe and away from their peers. Our own children have had this luxury, but many of our students have not.

Many of our students never get to choose what’s comfortable. They simply have to settle for what is. And this takes it toll. This often manifests itself at school in the form of stress, anxiety and disruptive behavior. Many of our students have not had the chance to experience what it feels like to say “this one is just right.”

Can we change what goes on once our students walk out of our building? Not much. But we can be a little bit more tolerant of some of their behaviors when we realize that they are not always directed at us. Our students are simply in the process of trying to determine what feels “just right”, and it is our job to guide them through this difficult journey.



  1. Ahhh…. (Big sigh, here.) And THIS is why I let students sit where they like (as long as it’s not disruptive), and try my best to get different seats from Goodwill every other month! 🙂 Great post, Jon. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I love this! I think it is so very true. Lately I have been trying to view every act of misbehavior or irresponsibility by asking “what if it isn’t their fault”. Through this, I have been trying to imagine what their home situation is and whether or not we have taken the time to teach them the skills we are expecting of them. When we do not know all of the circumstances it is probably important to give them a chance instead of immediately getting upset.

    Good Stuff!!!

  3. “They have missed out on failing at home, where it is safe and away from their peers.”

    Thank you for the insight here. Makes me realize the gift my husband and I have been able to give our own children, and the importance of creating and maintaining a safe space in my classroom for student risk-taking.

  4. Jon, I really appreciate your continued reflection and your focus on our neediest students. Poverty of all sorts is draining. Thinking about ways that we as educators can create wealth for our students in respect to choice, or opportunities to experience what many of us take for granted, and even a safe space to fail and try again is so important. Thank You!

  5. Please send me your weekly post. I just read the first one about the kids and their snow angels. It’s a real treat to rsad something positive.

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