Back Row Boys

Last week I did lots and lots of training sessions in Guernsey, and it gave me an opportunity to consider an issue that I have noticed again and again.  Why, when presented with a room of empty seats, do people gravitate to the back row?  What happened to them in school – which is where I assume the habit was formed – that they are keen to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the teacher?  It didn’t happen to me: I always sat in the front row, because no-one realised until I was eight that I needed glasses, so for the first four years of school I had to be within two feet of the blackboard to have a chance of reading anything, and after that I was used to it.

I have considered various possible explanations:

  • They hate training, and the back row is the nearest they can get to not being in the room while actually being in the room
  • They are frightened of being picked on by the teacher and forced to answer a question
  • They want to check emails/play Candy Crush/text their friends/all three, and hiding behind other people makes this possible
  • The teacher has ferocious BO or a Roy Hattersley-style spitting problem.

I’m still not sure which one (or which combination) it is, although I sincerely hope that it is not the last.  However, I have noticed that the older the people, the less likely they are to head for the back row.  So maybe they have learned that training is valuable, and that adult trainers rarely pick on you with difficult questions, and that Candy Crush is a habit to be broken.  But more likely, their middle-aged eyesight dictates that they can’t see the slides from back there.  So patience, grasshopper: eventually even the Back Row Boys will move forward.

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6 Responses to Back Row Boys

  1. David Maxwell says:

    I worked with someone who had a great solution to this. He just waited for everyone to be seated, then went and delivered from the back of the room, getting everyone to turn their seats around! Not really fair on the ones that wanted to be in front, but rough justice for those who headed for the back!

    • Yes, I saw someone do this once – although trickier to accomplish if you need a projector and screen for your presentation!
      Perhaps worth doing very occasionally to get the word out…
      Best wishes from Susan

  2. Claire says:

    Oh gosh, I think I must be in the aging group then, as I like to sit near the front. Easier to pay attention when there are no distractions sitting in front of you. I think your reason number 3 is, sadly, the most common excuse.

    • I’ll tell you something, Claire: as a person working for her own company, I cannot imagine the luxury that is someone else paying for me to expand my knowledge! If I want to learn something new, I have to pay for it myself. So I really envy these employees, who get to turn up to work and be given free information and skills training to make them better at their jobs – and when I see them moaning and groaning about it, I’m horrified. It’s a bit like the argument that free school education is under-valued; in countries where people have to pay for school places, they work like demons to afford it and their children really value the opportunity.
      Best wishes from Susan

  3. Fiona says:

    I hate talking in front of crowds so I sit somewhere I can’t be picked on to answer questions. I also have a pathological need to make people feel that they are doing a good job and therefore dread eye contact with a lecturer/speaker as I go into over the top smiling and nodding mode 🙂 Love those back seats!

  4. Thanks for your perspective, Fiona. I never pick on people – not least because I rarely know names! But my questions are always framed, “Does anyone know why…?” or “Can anyone think of a reason…?”, so that the keen ones can answer and the shy ones can wait!
    And I will admit that I had not considered the eye contact issue – I’ll remember that.
    Best wishes from Susan

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