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Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titantic aka Classroom Seating August 25, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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Over the summer, I’ve spent a good five minutes thinking about how I want to rearrange my classroom.  I would have spent more time, but when I walk into my classroom after summer vacation, it looks like a scene from the Titanic – after it hit the iceberg.

To refinish the hardwood floors, the custodians move all the furniture to one side of the room, then shift it back to the other, to refinish the other side. It’s a wonder the school isn’t listing.  The only thing that never moves is the monolithic black metal storage cabinet in the corner.

By the time I’ve unstacked all the chairs and tables, and dragged the double wide file cabinet back across the room where it’s supposed to go (putting fresh scuff marks on the refinished floor), my creative energy is spent.  I’m tempted to arrange everything the way it was “before.” Unfortunately, if I’ve had a relaxing vacation it’s hard to remember what “before” looked like. That’s why I take lots of pictures at Open House.  That’s as good as it gets. When I look at the pictures it all comes back to me.  Then I start dragging those bookcases.  If only the wheel had been invented when they designed all that heavy school furniture.

For the first two years, I had my students sit in two inverted F formations ideal for direct instruction.  “One, two, three – All eyes on me!”  Because some idiot bolted the overhead screen to the far right side of the whiteboard, all of the students need to be seated to one side of the room so they can see it. Grrr…

Last year I had students sit at tables.  I’d resisted tables for years as I don’t trust kids when I can’t see their faces.  That’s probably because whenever I go to professional developments and find my back to the presenter, I immediately start doodling or holding up funny signs to see if I can make the people across the table laugh.

That said, the table arrangement worked out pretty well.  I had two tables of six at the back of the room and two tables of four at the front.  I haven’t quite figured out how it’s going to work with increased class sizes this year. I await divine inspiration (and additional desks and tables).

On the first day of school I always let students sit wherever they want.  I can quickly see who shouldn’t be sitting next to who. By the second day, the seats they are a changin’.  As Chinese military strategist Sun-tzu said in 400 B.C., “You’ve got to keep your friends close and your enemies problem students closer.

Before I had my credential, I worked as a substitute, which to my mind is the best possible training for any aspiring teacher.  I remember walking into a middle school classroom and seeing a table full of boys at the back of the class. No teacher in her right mind would put all those boys together.   So I did what any cracker jack sub would do – I lied.

I announced that the teacher had left me a seating chart. (I would have settled for lesson plans!) “I’m going to turn around and count to 30. When I’m done, you better be back in your seat, or I’m going to start writing referrals,” I said.  I turned my back and began counting.  As I heard the frantic game of musical chairs underway, I couldn’t help but smile.

When I turned back around I was greeted by a sea of smiling faces.  My bag of tricks is bottomless. That’s why I’m the teacher.