Change The Environment, Change Learning (12 Days Of Ideas #5)
What if a group of students crashed the next school board meeting in your district, and asked all of the board members to give up their comfy chairs in favor of the hard bottomed desk chair units most students are made to sit at for the duration?
Such a student led initiative took place in the school district Carl Hooker works at, which he talked about during his keynote at TIES 2016 conference. According to Carl, the school board was a lot more receptive to investing in flexible seating afterwards.
But flexible seating isn't just about comfort. The learning environment has a big impact on learning itself. Environment Changes Learning.
Why can't we give students more choice? We tell them where to sit. We tell them what to do. If you're a control freak in the classroom, examine within yourself why. ALL HELL WILL NOT BREAK LOOSE WHEN YOU ALLOW STUDENTS TO HAVE CHOICES.
I know, because I used to fear that. And then I realized that it was my own baggage. Overly strict dictator of a stepfather, the communist Poland of my youth, the rigid Chicago Public Schools all contributed to it. Just because I did not have much choice then, doesn't mean my students don't get any now. It wasn't right then. It'd be wrong now.
When I Starbucksed my room and shifted to flexible seating, thinking shifted. Mine and my students'. Choice is no longer an option, it's a necessity. It freed me and it will free you. So march over to that school board meeting and tell them 21st century called. If they say no, grab a bunch of students and those awful desk chairs and kindly ask the board to use them from now on if they are such proponents. They might not listen to you, but they better listen to the kids.
Do you find yourself telling your students to sit down a lot? Why? They learn better when they move around. So let them. Structure your lessons so they can. Change the environment to not just allow it but promote it. Going flexible seating has been the answer for me.
Are you the "students should work the entire period" type? Why? If our focus is good for about 20 minutes when working on something and 10 when listening to someone talk, why would we expect someone else to sustain it for 45, 50, or 55 minutes?
The brain needs frequent breaks, so allow your students a brain break or two every period. Better yet, make brain breaks deliberate by building them into your lessons. Your students will be more productive and you will be less stressed.
Put a yoga mat or a rug in the corner and give students a place to go to when they need to "remove themselves." Students who have a tough time adjusting to the norms of the school setting will have a spot to go to and chill instead of causing a disruption. You just make it an agreed upon spot for students to go to when things "ain't going right."
Environment... Not Just Physical
The classroom environment isn't just about the chairs and tables. It really is about validating who the learners are and adjusting it to their, not our needs. What is happening in your school? Your classroom? Really... Think hard. Can you do better?
Now get to work, because you have the power to change the learning environment, change the learning, and change the world.