One by one, we made our way in. The day had felt long, and everyone seemed to be exhibiting quiet relief as they entered the room, books in hand. Small conversations, friendly banter, gradually and organically began to bubble up as more of my colleagues sauntered in from the hallways. The aroma of cheese pizza, two of them resting at the center of a table now adorned with a red and white checked tablecloth, permeated the room.
Today would mark our second book club meeting, and I will admit to feeling slightly uneasy. The book I had selected for us to read, a young adult novel aimed at middle school students… well, hadn’t really ‘grabbed me’ yet; and I worried that others I’d invited to join the club may now be feeling similarly. They may be also regretting their decision to join the club.
Everyone settled in, grabbing a slice of pizza. As they did so I silently marveled at the cross section of our school staff who occupied places around the table: a math teacher, a history teacher, a Spanish teacher, an English Language Arts teacher, a French teacher… “So lovely to see this convening of such an unlikely group,” I thought to myself, even though five others had said they were unable to attend today’s meeting.
But I worried. And I tried to read faces. Did they regret the decision?
Suddenly, someone said, “I really like this book!” Another person agreed. And slowly, it came to be revealed that all but one of them genuinely did like the book. I breathed a silent sigh of relief. And as the conversation about the book ensued, I noticed my own tepid affinity for the book began to grow and expand. Listening to others’ perspectives, ideas, and interpretations of the story– along with the emotion my colleagues were expressing– helped me see the book in a new way.
But not only did I begin to appreciate the book in new ways, I also began to appreciate my colleagues a little more. This conversation, this unique way of coming together around a common text, seemed to forge new connections between us and broaden our understandings of one another. Talking about this book allowed us to step out of our typical roles and known personas and relate… differently. And in doing so, I felt as if all of us in that room not only deepened our thinking about the book, but each other.