Monday, April 24, 2017

Flexible Seating: Student Thoughts


Today I shared with my first class our plans for the day. It was to be a busy one. We needed to check off some pages of the poetry books we're creating for the kindergarteners, read for ten minutes in our choice books, head outside for a quick write, share a book talk, have our read aloud, learn about the next two pages in our poetry book for the kids, and create those pages.

I'm exhausted just remembering it.

Also, I needed a favor from the students. I told them I had written a loooooong blog post on Sunday about our classroom. (You can read it HERE). They weren't too interested. As one of them said, "You always write about us." Touché. 

I then explained it was on the seating choices in our classroom. They perked up a bit. I told them that teachers are always trying to learn from each other. That I had wanted to share the pros and cons of our seats to help teachers who were just starting to add seating choice to their classrooms. They nodded at me, puzzled about why I was telling them this when we had so much to do. Then I explained that by writing that blog post I had received a flood of questions, messages, and comments. Most of them revolved around two things - what did my students think and how was their behavior in this environment? Before I let them speak, I'll try to give my thoughts.

Overall, I think student behavior is excellent in our classroom. While we have our moments - for example, I'm not a huge fan of the "spinners" that are the current fad at our school, by and large the students are respectful in our class. That being said, I've never had a huge issue with student behavior - before or after the change to this type of seating. This could be attributed to the kids I teach, the relationships I build, or now - the age I am. I think it can be easier to get them to focus when you are the age of their parents. 😜

Yet, I've taught in Chicago, I've taught in districts where the free and reduced lunch rate was the school's student body, I've taught kindergarten (God bless you all), and now middle school. My typical behavior "issue" is too much talking. However, as I pointed out years ago in a blog post, when I realized that every year I lamented that my class was chatty, I finally realized that there was one common denominator - and that was me. 

The truth is, I don't love a silent class. I like my class to have the perfect balance of being on the quiet side, because I need quiet to work, but also being allowed to say something to a friend in workshop time, because this is not a prison. It's hard to achieve that balance and I feel like I'm constantly working at it.

Here's what I've learned about classroom management and student behavior in a nutshell. One, students behave better when they know you care about them. Students also behave better when they know you have invested in their surroundings with purpose. Not decorate necessarily, but when they know I've bought books for them with my own money, when they know I've thought about the room environment to make it meet their needs, when they know I gave up my giant teacher's desk to give more of the room back to them - those actions have consequences. The consequence I've found is that the kids are more at ease in our room. They have less behavior problems. They tend to relax more. It's just a good place to be.

This is what I believed. I still do. But then I turned this idea over to my students today using Padlet. I told them I was sharing this with you all - what were their thoughts on our classroom? The comments are all over the place, but hopefully, if you were one of the folks wanting to know more, this helps. As a reflection for me, it worked wonderfully. By and large, I think these seventh graders are happy in this space we share together. But, judging from my the comments from my last class (near the top), some aren't getting to sit where they'd like. This is something to work on. One thing I absolutely believe is that we can always improve. 


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