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.