Finding Balance In A Flexible Seating Classroom
I couldn't sleep last night, because my mind was wrestling. I had a tough decision to make. Making it; taking that step I did not want to take felt like failure. The plan worked for two thirds of the school year, and then...
I decided. Distressing situations often call for drastic measures. I decided I had to act contrary to what I believe.
I decided to assign seats in my 4th period chemistry class.
That might not seem drastic to some, but I built a Starbucks classroom; a 21st century learning space that allows students to make choices about how they learn and where they sit. I gave up control and embraced collaboration. No one assigns seats in a cafe. I didn't think I'd have to... It's flexible seating right?
Yes, but what about flexible teaching?
Sometimes, flexibility requires making the tough, not-so-student-friendly choices. Choices, that hopefully lead to a better learning environment and improved learning.
Every situation is different...
Every class has its own dynamics, yet I always try to make things that work in one chemistry class work in another. They often do, but what when they don't? I should adjust; change something, right?
Is it unfair to assign seats in one class, but let the other three still have their own choice? Kids talk and they will find out what I've done (and not done). Will they feel singled out and punished? And, does doing this make #StarbucksMyRoom a failure?
I wrestled with assigning seats several times before and yesterday's 4th period was a hot mess. I had to act. It was not an easy decision. It was not rash. I thought about it. I communicated to students the possibility always exists. And... I did it.
I was calm. I was respectful, but firm. I was brief, but I communicated how I felt and why I was doing it. I told my students that though I held it together yesterday, I was pissed. It was the only thing I took away; all the other policies are still in place.
Today was better. I worked one on one with two students I knew were falling behind and they accepted my help. I asked the new girl who lacks motivation and is distracted all the time if she gets McDonald's every day for lunch. Chicken nuggets and Coke. Every day. Not the weekends though.
Is it working? It appears so, but it's far from perfect. I don't want perfect. I just want my students to learn and am willing to try everything reasonable to make that happen. It was hard, but it made sense. It sucked, but I felt I had no choice.
I'm learning to find balance. As lines get blurred, so does vision. To see clearly, I have to take time to absorb and reflect on the feedback my students give me. I need to do what's best for their learning and that may involve measures I don't anticipate.
I still believe flexible seating is a game changer. But while flexible seating is cool, being flexible in teaching is necessary, because at the end of the day one question remains.
I must be audacious and act accordingly. We all must.
We have the power to change lives. Let's dare to use it often.